Encouraging women to choose construction careers has become an increasingly important focus for the industry. BuildForce Canada estimates that tradeswomen currently account for less than 5% of workers employed in direct on-site trades and occupations, where demand for workers is greatest. While it’s important to implement effective outreach and recruiting strategies, and create respectful and welcoming workplaces, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the very practical — for example, does your workplace offer personal protective equipment (PPE) that fits women?
Take the standard coverall, which doesn’t take a woman’s shape into consideration. Loose clothing can get snagged, make it more difficult to negotiate a construction site or fail to provide adequate protection against hazards. Most coveralls are designed to allow men to take a quick bathroom break. For women, taking that same bathroom break often means having to remove most of the garment. Coveralls are now being designed for women to make bathroom breaks easier — they should have access to them.
Poorly sized construction helmets are less likely to stay on. Gloves need to fit fingers to offer dexterity and cinch around wrists to keep hands safe. Goggles need to provide full protection for a more slender face, or particles can enter around either side. Safety shoes and work boots need to fit properly to allow mobility and provide maximum foot protection. Fall protection harnesses need to fit to offer adequate protection during a fall.