Need for properly fitting PPE addressed in new guideline

The guideline outlines the requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be available for all body types, not just sized for men’s bodies.  

Photo of male and female workers, wearing coveralls and looking at car engine.

Photo credit: monkeybusinessimages/istock via Getty Images

A new guideline addressing the issue of ill-fitting PPE, which can compromise worker safety, came into effect in November 2022.

I instantly thought about Jodi Huettner when I read a recent WorkSafeBC media release about this addition to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Guidelines.

Jodi left mechanical engineering on a mission to improve access to PPE. She has been advocating for policy that explicitly requires women’s body data to be used in the design and construction of women’s PPE. I contacted Jodi to ask for her view on the new guideline.

“The new guideline is a great step in the right direction taken by WorkSafeBC to help employers interpret our existing OHS regulations with a more gendered lens,” Jodi emailed.

In 2014, Jodi started a women’s safety clothing company. In my post Why women need PPE designed for their bodies, I described some of the experiences that motivated her. Nearly 10 years later, Helga Wear is going strong.

Opening a conversation around PPE

Ashley Teister has first-hand experience with a lack of properly sized gloves, boots, and fall protection gear. She worked in the concrete reinforcing industry for 14 years before starting at WorkSafeBC as an occupational safety officer and eventually becoming a supervisor in Prevention Field Services.

“When I was in industry, it was much harder to find what I needed. I’m glad we’re taking steps in this direction,” Ashley says. “The new guideline gives workers the opportunity to speak to what PPE they need as well. I’m really hopeful for those coming into the trades that we’re already on this path.”

Ashley says the new guideline helps employers understand how to select appropriate PPE for all genders. This is especially important in industries where men have traditionally made up most of the workforce, such as construction, mining, and firefighting.

“If I wear gloves that are too big for my hands, there is an opportunity for excess fabric to get caught up in the tools I’m using. This increases my potential for injury,” Ashley says. “If your boots are too big or small for your feet, it can lead to you tripping or slipping more. It can also lead to other types of MSI [musculoskeletal injury] if you’re standing on your feet for long periods of time.”

Thank you to Jodi and Ashley for speaking with me — and for all you do to make workplaces safer for everyone. Let’s all take a look at our PPE before we put it on again. And in the comments below, let me know what PPE you realize you need to upgrade after reading this post.

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