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 15 of 31

16 F E A T U R E raised a number of questions on the availability and use of PPE for women. The report details the crucial role manufacturers play in providing adequate protective clothing to workers, and notably female workers. One of the report's conclusions is that there is still very little communication around product availability. "While several manufacturers have begun to address the PPE needs of women, few have marketed their products in an aggressive way. And yet, there is a market out there: In the manufacturer's survey results, those who advertised their products in women's sizes realized outstanding sales revenues. However, this fact seems little known," says the report. Nevertheless, the report does indicate that around 75 per cent of manufacturers and suppliers surveyed had seen an increase in the previous three years for requests for PPE in women's sizes or size ranges that would be suitable for women. One common mistake manufacturers and sellers make with regards to protective clothing for women is thinking that appropriate clothing for female workers means simply providing an option in the colour pink — or in colourways that are regarded as being more traditionally "feminine." Nevertheless, this way of thinking seems to be on its way out, with a number of PPE and protective clothing manufacturers branching out into apparel for female workers. Furthermore, there are a host of vendors and manufacturers who specialize entirely in clothing for women workers such as Safety Girl, Charm and She continued, "It's called personal protective equipment — the first word is personal — and we've got to remember it's got to fit the person. For example, women have hips and we want clothing that is going to fit us and not be so vertical. We want clothing that is going to be able to conform to our shape." Manufacturers play a large part In 2006, the Ontario Women's Directorate (OWD) and the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) published a report entitled "Personal Protective Equipment for Women — Addressing the Need." The report "It's called personal protective equipment … and we've got to remember it's got to fit the person … We want clothing that is going to be able to conform to our shape." Lee-Anne Lyon-Bartley, WOHSS Hammer, Covergalls or See Her Work. There is also a need to focus on providing apparel for women who are pregnant, women with disabilities and women of different ethnicities or faiths who may need certain accommodations. However, there are brands looking to counter these deficiencies by providing a more inclusive range of protective clothing. For example, U.S.-based PPE brand AmorSui has started selling the the Rufaida Al-Aslamia hijab, a model that is specifically designed for women in STEM and health care who wear hijabs or headscarves. The hijab is fire-resistant and anti-microbial. A closer look at women in health care According to Statistics Canada, women make up a large part of the health-care profession. In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that women in the health-care sector made up 52 per cent of general practitioners and family physicians, 72 per cent of psychologists, 61 per cent of pharmacists, 87 per cent of social workers, 79 per cent of physiotherapists, 89 per cent of licensed practical nurses and 90 per cent of registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. This is important to note, as health care as a profession is largely dominated by women — especially in long-term care, which has been hit particularly hard by the ongoing pandemic. Around 17 per cent of health-care workers in Canada have contracted the virus; the percentage has been relatively steady since the start of the outbreak. Professor Jim Brophy of the University of Windsor says there are certain industries in which women are not seen, "and because they're not visible, and because of the nature and stratification of our workforce — which is reinforced by gender — their voices are lacking in power or just simply ignored." Brophy co-authored a chapter in Sick of the System: Why the COVID-19 recovery must be revolutionary alongside Jane E. McArthur and Margaret M. Keith entitled "Novel Virus, Old Story," which discusses the impact of the current pandemic on those working in the health-care sector. "Firefighters wouldn't be expected to go into a fire with the kinds of protections that health-care workers were expected to go into COVID units with," says Brophy. Much has been made in recent months of shortages of PPE, notably N95 respirators, among health-care workers. COVID-19 has brought to light many uncomfortable truths, one of those being the lack of PPE for health-care workers and the fact that, even if available, limited models may not be suitable for different face shapes, notably women's faces. "My understanding is that they actually do have a smaller size [of N95 masks]. I think there's two sizes, which are supposed to account for the different sizes of people's faces, including the difference between a male face and a female face," says Brophy. "But I don't think I have heard of any health-care workers in Ontario being given different choices on face size. And I don't think 2020 GENDER AND PPE STATISTICS Source: 2020 Prospect survey of 1,175 workers 48.5% of women reported ill-fitting trousers, compared with 16.6 per cent of men 44.7% of women reported poorly fitting overalls, compared with 15.3 per cent of men 21.5% of women reported ill-fitting eye protection, compared with 13.5 per cent of men 15.7% of women reported poorly fitting respiratory equipment, compared with 7 per cent of men 13.8% of women reported problems with ear protection, compared with 7.6 per cent of men

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