Putting the Ps back into PPE

Health, Safety and Wellbeing October 30, 2019

RSK senior geoenvironmental engineer Roseanna Bloxham has featured in Health & Safety International addressing the issues women still face with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Since being named Best Woman Consultant at the 2017 European Women in Construction and Engineering (WICE) Awards, Rosey has been in high demand. In the article, PPE from a leading woman’s perspective, she explains that she has never faced discrimination from colleagues, clients or other consultants: “I find the construction and engineering industry is very welcoming towards all and actively craves diversity, including a gender-balanced workforce”. Instead, she feels discriminated against in the PPE available for women.

“Although the industry is gradually heading towards addressing its gender imbalance, the PPE available for women on-site simply does not match the progressive and inclusive attitudes of the modern-day construction and engineering industry,” she explains. “Women are still struggling to find PPE that fits, which means that is it not personal (more a one-size-fits-all generalisation) and the poor sizing may also reduce the PPE’s functionality by making it less protective and less safe.”

Rosey continues by stating that we need to recognise the physical differences between men and women and that this should be reflected in PPE. Although some women’s PPE is now available, there simply is not the range or the specialist items that are available for men. Accessories are also a major problem, Rosey explains, recounting one time when she had to remove herself from site because of ill-fitting PPE, and another where a female colleague’s PPE would not have been safe to work in: £100 had to be spent on a specialist tailor to make it suitable.

“The struggle that many women in the construction and engineering industry face before they even reach site is discrimination and unfair. Women are being prevented from working safely, comfortably or even at all because of their size. The industry is ready to embrace diversity and PPE must catch up. The time has come to put the Ps back into PPE. And that means making it personal and protective for all,” Rosey concludes.

You can read the article in full online or in hard copy, Issue 71, 43–47.