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Women and PPE: One Size Does Not Fit All Part 1

Currently, women make up a small percentage of the construction workforce as compared to men. This could explain why properly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) is a challenge for some construction companies. As more women enter the construction field, construction employers will have to consider their specific needs when it comes to safety.

As experienced OSHA defense attorneys, we cannot stress enough the importance of providing employees with the correct PPE for their jobs. In part one of this series, we will focus on why PPE is critical, employer compliance, and meeting PPE standards.

PPE is Critical

PPE is critical for keeping your workforce safe and minimizing your employees’ exposure to jobsite hazards. If PPE is not properly sized, a worker’s chance of injury, illness, and even death will be elevated if the worker comes in contact with chemical, mechanical, electrical, or any other type of workplace hazard. PPE consists of items that protect a worker’s eyes, face, feet, hands, head, and hearing. Equipment includes gloves, safety glasses, safety-toed footwear,  fall protection equipment, earplugs or earmuffs, hard hats, respirators, coveralls, and vests.

Are Companies Complying?

There are some construction companies that fail to comply with federal mandates to provide the appropriate PPE to their employees. In some cases, women are forced to wear improperly sized PPE or may opt out of wearing PPE if they do not have access to it. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), some PPE retailers, wholesalers, and distributors may lack a full range of PPE sizes and types. Additionally, some employers may have limited knowledge of the existence of PPE specifically designed for women. Employers should not solely rely on unisex PPE to meet their diverse workforce needs, rather they should seek out distributors that offer a range of PPE for both men and women.

Meeting PPE Standards

Employers are responsible for protecting their employees from workplace hazards. They must eliminate and reduce hazards by putting all feasible engineering and work practice controls in place before PPE is used. PPE is required in any operation where there is an exposure to hazardous conditions. Employers must provide employees with PPE that protects the face, eyes, head, and extremities. Protective clothing and shields, respiratory devices, and barriers must be provided. All equipment must be used and maintained properly. When choosing PPE for your jobsite, consider hazards such as heat, impact, penetration, compression, chemical, electrical, radiation, harmful dust, and potential falls.

The final section will conclude our series with a discussion on the frustrations and dangers of improperly sized PPE.

If you would like to speak with an OSHA defense attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.