According to the National Labour Survey, in 2009 there were just under 246,000 women in construction compared to around 2,066,000 men. In comparison, in 2019 it has been recorded that there are now just over 292,000 women in construction and around 2,048,000 men.
Whilst men are still significantly overtaking women in this industry, we are starting to see an increase in the number of women taking up roles within the construction industry in areas such as electrics, building, and engineering.
In a recent article on HSE Network, ProGARM outlined the key considerations for Arc Flash PPE. In this article, we wanted to highlight the importance of Arc Flash PPE for women specifically, the growing demand for this type of clothing for women, and the importance of investing in the correct equipment for women as well as men.
Why should you invest in female-specific Arc Flash PPE?
An arc flash is light and heat produced as part of an arc fault, a type of electrical explosion or discharge resulting from a from a low-impedance connection through air to ground or another voltage phase.
Temperatures can reach as high as 35000°F, and as arc blasts typically occur without any warning, they end up destroying electrical equipment completely and leading to severe injury or death of people within the area of the arc flash.
Previously PPE was designed for men, and this was very much the norm. However, as women have taken on more roles within these industries it is important that PPE is now designed to fit different people differently.
As a woman, you should bear in mind that you have a shapelier figure than your male counterparts and so men’s fit Arc Flash PPE may not offer you the best protection due to being more baggy or loose-fitting.
By opting for loose-fitting Arc Flash PPE instead of clothes designed with specific sizing and shape, you could be at risk of becoming injured or worse. As an employee, you should make it your responsibility to invest in women’s workwear or to ask your employer to take key steps on your behalf to secure PPE which is of an equal standard to the men’s workwear they provide.
Ben Pocock, Marketing Manager of ProGARM told HSE Network “It’s important that the PPE standard we meet for men is the same for women”. He went on to add “The biggest differences are generally fit, so we do specific fit and shape for women and the sizing reflects that as well. There are slight differences to ensure maximum comfort for both men and women”.
Another consideration as a woman is to ensure you do not wear an underwired bra when you are in an area where Arc Flash could occur. Depending on the rating of your top garments, you could still be at risk of being burnt if you are wearing a wired bra underneath, or other materials that are particularly flammable.
Considerations for employers
As an employer, you should be making sure you take the appropriate measures to provide your employees with the appropriate workwear, as not doing so could result in injury or death of employees.
Whilst it can be tempting to give women PPE which is a men’s fit and as close to their size as possible, this can sometimes result in women being given ill-fitting clothing or something that is not of the same quality or standard to that given to male workers.
Ben Pocock also highlighted that in some cases women don’t enjoy wearing garments that are designed for men and are a man’s fit. He added that in these cases “they are less likely to wear the gear itself and wear normal workwear which then compromises their safety”.
Whilst on paper investing women’s PPE may not appear to be important as many of the quality ratings are the same, from a perspective of fit and of the likeliness of women wearing the gear it is incredibly important.