ConstructionNews.net April 2006, Vol 4, No. 4: Dallas- Ft Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Houston
Submitted by Terri Piasecki, owner Charm and Hammer
With over 25 years experience in the construction industry and over six years focusing exclusively on safety, I noticed that workers did not wear personal protective equipment nearly enough. From hand protection and eye protection to major equipment like fall protection, I constantly saw a battle between employers and employees in regard to safety gear.
I always asked workers, “Why don’t you wear safety glasses, gloves, etc?” They all had a different answer, but all of the answers shared a common thread. Excuse after excuse, the theme was usually proper fit.
Since most safety gear was made to fi t men, I thought, “If men aren’t happy with the way things fit, what about women?” That’s why in 2004 I started an on line company that provides safety gear and construction clothing for women. Most people can relate to the difficulty of working with gloves that are too large or too small. In addition to poor production, ill-fitting gear presents quite a hazard. Gloves that are too large risk fingers or hands getting caught in or pulled into machinery. Fall protection harnesses that are too large may result in a worker actually falling out of the harness. Safety glasses will slide down if not a snug fit. How does one weld with welding gloves that are hanging off the hand? When safety gear fits comfortably, workers wear it. This is the fundamental objective of every safety program. Most employers provide safety gear, especially gear that is specifically required for the job. However, it is more feasible for an employer to buy a case of gloves or glasses and require everyone to wear the same gear. The problem is one size does not fit everyone.
Some of the manufacturers have addressed this by designing gear that is fully customizable. For instance, safety glasses that can be adjusted five ways will fit a broad range of faces; fall protection harnesses that are calibrated for the weight of the worker incorporate an entirely new engineering design.
For women, the newest trend in work gear is style and color. It started years ago with wraparound safety glasses. Now, stylish and colorful work gear is exploding the marketplace – pink, purple, fuchsia and red to name a few of the popular colors with women.
My company’s biggest sellers are pink hard hats, pink tool belts, pink work gloves and pink safety glasses! Years ago, women in the field wanted to blend in. The new generation demands colors and fit!
Women’s coveralls are now available from two different manufacturers in a variety of colors and patterns. One has a hidden drop seat; the other comes complete with kneepads. Both are designed specifically to fit women. Before these became available, women would have to order men’s coveralls large enough to fit across the chest – but then the arms and legs would be too long.
Employers are encouraged to find a knowledgeable safety supplier, understand that a man’s “small” is not equivalent to a women’s “small,” and be willing to provide a variety of safety gear for their diverse work force. The best way to gain support for a safety program is by empowering employees with some of the decision making. Make personal protective equipment the topic of your next safety meeting. Have various samples available for employees to try. Everyone likes to be a product tester. Let them choose what they want to wear. Reward employees with premium safety gear.
A former safety manager, Terri Piasecki owns Charm and Hammer, an online source of women’s safety gear and construction clothing at http://www.charmandhammer.com