Posts Tagged ‘PPE’

Traditionally PPE for women has been offered at a minimum by a small variety of manufacturers. In 2002, when began efforts to make safety gear for women readily available, there were literally only a handful of products offered in a size smaller than the standard men’s size. A couple of manufacturers confided to me that they purposely did not refer to those products as being for women because they were afraid it was not politically correct! Thus making it even harder for women and their employers to find them.
It is thrilling to be able to report since started, we have a seen a shift in the products lines. More manufacturers are now offering gear for women, and a variety of it! Other manufacturers are making products more unisex in size and style (i.e. safety eyewear). Some of the sizing guidelines have been updated to reflect the sizing of the current population. That is the good news.
The supply chain process however is still based on an archaic system. From our point of view as a retail distributor, manufacturers create products; these products sit at the manufacturer until a wholesale distributor agrees to carry them and places an order. A product line that does not appeal to the masses (i.e. women’s) typically will not be stocked at the wholesale distributor level which in turn makes it difficult for retail distributors to promote them. Just as they did years ago, distributors will special order something they don’t stock, but that usually takes two to three weeks to come in. Three weeks is a long time to wait for safety equipment. Certain manufacturers require ordering a case or a box of a particular item which inhibits middle level distributors from stocking a variety of women’s gear that may take up space in the warehouse for a longer period of time than they are traditionally used to. The old saying “you can’t sell what you don’t have” still rings true. Then manufacturers see that the women’s gear isn’t moving, and in some cases, they discontinue it before anyone knew it even existed.
On the other side of the process, some manufacturers restrict distribution of their products to only retailers with brick and mortar stores. This stifles internet sales and prohibits companies like mine from carrying those products making them available to those who need it, outside my local area. Women’s gear must be sold online. There are not enough women in any local market to sustain the need to inventory the products on a local level. With the help of internet I reach hundreds of customers a week within that target market.
The above processes describe the typical routes for most industrial, commercial personal protective equipment. For our first responders, such as police officers, fire fighters, EMS, the supply chain is more difficult. In those cases, equipment is purchased under large contracts often specifying manufacturers to supply the entire department. Women get what is purchased for them based on what is good for the entire group, whether or not that manufacturer offers the best products for women.
In other situations, equipment compatibility forces companies to order all the same style gear for every member. For example, respirators need to be from one manufacturer so the filters and parts are compatible within the entire department or company. Wouldn’t it be nice to make respirator filters compatible across brands?
In addition, some standards dictate sizing restrictions for gear. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulates the color and amount in square inches of background material and reflective stripping necessary for safety vests. These minimums are based on research conducted that tells us how big an object must be, at certain distances for drivers to see them in time to react. If a very small or petite woman is near traffic, she had better be big enough to fit into an ANSI safety vest because- get this-employers really don’t like to say “no you can’t do that job because you are too small” in fear of a discrimination lawsuit. It is quite a controversial issue that surprisingly is not openly discussed. Issues like this need to be formerly resolved and employers need to be educated as to why safety vests and hi visibility clothing is the size it is. I’ve spoken to several people and heard first hand from women who have altered their safety vests to make them “fit better”. Granted, a garment that is too large can get caught in equipment, but someone needs to address the reason why these vests are too large. I’ve also been asked for pink safety vests, but pink is not an ANSI approved high visibility color. Unfortunately I have also talked with government transportation officials who experienced a fatality on the job of a woman who was extremely petite. Off the record, I was told that being a government employer they are not permitted to exclude her from that job position, due to discrimination. I personally find this morally troubling. If someone is just too small to been seen by moving traffic safety must trump discrimination.
There are many reasons women need safety gear to fit and function properly. The basic safety gear for construction includes eye, foot, hand, head, hearing protection as well as visibility clothing and in some cases respiratory protection is required. For both women and men a better fit, results in a more compliant employee. If an employee is wearing ill fitting, uncomfortable gear all day every day, it will negatively affect production. Ill fitting gloves could actually cause an accident, by getting caught in equipment for instance. Safety glasses constantly sliding down your nose, don’t offer much protection for eyes. A worker could actually fall out of a fall protection harness that is significantly too big. The need for proper gear is a necessity.
Over the past three years, has shipped over 7000 orders worldwide. We still experience steadily increasing sales from year to year. We also see steady increases in employers shopping at for their employees; entire EMS ambulance crews coming to us for women’s safety eyewear by the case; large numbers of women construction crews and habitat volunteers coming to us for volume discounts! It is an exciting time for hard working women with choices for functional, stylish safety equipment.
Perhaps you can suggest the topic of PPE for your next employer’s safety meeting. Have an assortment of PPE samples available for everyone to try. You will see that the same style of safety glasses will fit everyone differently; similar findings will also be seen for work gloves and other equipment! Employers that allow the purchase of different styles and sizes of gear experience payback in productivity. In addition, employees are more likely to take care of equipment they like. Their favorite pair of gloves or glasses is less likely to be found at the bottom of the gang box, reducing overall costs of safety equipment!