Canadian Occupational Safety

November/December 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 14 of 31 15 F E A T U R E 15 ONE SIZE FITS ALL? This issue's PPE focus centres around protective clothing for women — or lack thereof. With an increasing number of reports of female workers struggling with ill-fitting PPE, COS takes a closer look at this essential topic stemming from ill-fitting protective clothing. On the topic of PPE for women in construction, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) states: "All workers have a right to a safe workplace. PPE designed for the dimensions of an average male worker means that female workers may be forced to rely on gear that is too large or disproportioned. From headwear to footwear, ill-fitting PPE can cause safety hazards, reduced dexterity from oversized gloves, hard hats that fall off, baggy coveralls catching on equipment, and trips and falls because footwear or shoe covers are too large." And "by recognizing the physical differences between genders, employers can show support for female workers in construction by treating them fairly. This can also support the changing construction workplace culture as more women enter the industry," according to the CCOHS. Some revealing statistics In April, British trade union Prospect revealed the results of a study it conducted on PPE. The study highlighted that the most glaring issues arose with regards to protective clothing such as overalls, jackets and trousers. For example, the study found that for trousers, 16.6 per cent of male respondents said that their trousers didn't fit well, while 48.5 per cent of women surveyed said that they didn't fit well. The study raised similar numbers for overalls: 15.3 per cent of males surveyed said that their overalls didn't fit well, while 44.7 per cent of female participants said that they didn't fit well. In addition, Prospect asked whether the PPE respondents wear is designed for men or women. Of the male respondents, 54.4 per cent said that PPE was made for men, 0.4 per cent responded that it was designed for women and 45.1 per cent said that they didn't know. Meanwhile, 64.7 per cent of female respondents said that their PPE was designed for men, 15.9 per cent said that it was made for women and 19.5 per cent said that they didn't know. In 2016, a survey conducted by, among others, Prospect and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), found that 57 per cent of women who took part said that their PPE sometimes or significantly hampered their work. The survey also found that only 29 per cent of female respondents said that the PPE they use is specifically designed for women. At an event hosted by WOHSS in November 2019, COS spoke with Lee-Anne Lyon-Bartley, director at large of WOHSS, who said, "As women, we do wear bras, and this is not something men are going to think about and that underwire could become a risk and a hazard. So, you need to make sure that you're not wearing undergarments that have underwires because it does add an additional risk if you have to wear fire-rated clothing." "PPE designed for the dimensions of an average male worker means that female workers may be forced to rely on gear that is too large or disproportioned." CCOHS ONE One of the first conversations I had when I started writing for COS was with Stephanie Benay, chairperson of the Women in Occupational Health and Safety Society (WOHSS) and one of the cover stars of our May/June issue. When I asked her about issues facing women in the OHS sector today, she mentioned PPE. At the time, she said that "having PPE that fits you properly and is comfortable is critical to being able to do your job." The issue struck me at the time as it is one that — I am ashamed to admit — I had never really thought about. And, indeed, this topic has arisen more and more in the last few months whenever speaking with female OHS professionals. The main issue is the fit of protective clothing, which for many still doesn't take into account the fact that workers come in all shapes and sizes. This lack of proper consideration seems to strongly affect female workers. What are the dangers? An article published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2016 entitled "Access to properly fitting personal protective equipment for female construction workers" highlights the difficulties that notably female construction workers face with regards to access and fit of protective clothing, including gloves, harnesses, safety vests, work boots, outwear, etc. The authors of the article found that, generally, equipment provided to female workers was too large. The study also noted that female workers faced other issues, such as having to purchase their own PPE or being exposed to health and safety hazards WOMEN IN 'NON-TRADITIONAL' FIELDS IN CANADA Source: based on 2019 Statistics Canada figures (Numbers by industry and total employed — per cent women) 12.1% Construction 21.6% Manufacturing, durables 17.7% Mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction 23.5% Transportation and warehousing 24.5% Utilities

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