When dealing with personal protective equipment (PPE), it’s good to keep in mind that one size definitely does not fit all.
“When equipment is awkward or bulky, employees are reluctant to wear it,” Safeopedia says online. “Outfitting all workers with comfortable gear can increase compliance and lead to a safer, more productive workforce. That alone makes it worth the time and investment.”
It’s true that there will be a few requirements that will be necessary for every employee, but there are also a few other aspects to consider when trying to effectively and comfortably equip your staff with PPE.
Take a look at a few things to keep in mind when choosing PPE for your workers, as well as why making these conscious choices could help keep employees safer and more content.
What to look for
Proper fit and temperature regulation
If you’ve been in the green industry for a long enough time, you’ve certainly heard complaints regarding the fit and comfort of some PPE clothing.
“Sure, the clothing will go over just about any worker’s body, but that doesn’t mean it will fit properly,” Safeopedia says online. “But does it really matter how well it fits as long as it’s worn? Yes, it does. Fit is an often-overlooked factor when selecting protective clothing, but it’s an important consideration.”
According to Safeopedia, guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) state that when selecting items for their workplace, employers should take into consideration the comfort and fit of PPE, as this is one of the best ways to ensure compliance among employees.
When PPE isn’t made to fit specific body types, it can not only prove unpleasant to wear for long periods of time, but it can also prove dangerous to the employees, as it could cause falls or become snagged on equipment. Or if the outfits are too small, they can restrict movement and prevent employees from being able to do their jobs as well.
This, experts agree, could make employees hesitant to wear PPE at all or cause them to try and modify the outfits, as they may believe they can get their work done faster and more effectively without the hindrance.
“It is never recommended to alter safety gear as it does not address ergonomics and you’re simply inviting a host of additional non-compliance issues,” Safeopedia says online. “Even folding cuffs or rolling up the sleeves could be a hazard in certain situations.”
When PPE fits properly, it is able to work properly. This means that PPE that fits employees comfortably has a higher chance of reducing heat stress, as using non-breathable or bulky protective clothing and equipment could be contributing factors to heat-related illnesses, according to OSHA.
If you as an employer have the opportunity to, talk to your staff about what features they consider important when it comes to PPE. This could help you narrow the options down to PPE that will be specifically tailored to meet the needs and wants of your team.
PPE for women
Another aspect of PPE that many employers fail to account for is the fact that women will need PPE specifically designed for their body types.
In many cases, women in the green industry have noted that they were required to wear the smallest size of men’s PPE simply because the company did not see the need in buying women-specific gear, but as stated earlier, one size does not fit all and men’s PPE is not made to fit women.
“Working in ill-fitted PPE is dangerous, unnecessary and easily avoided,” Safeopedia says online. “However, correctly sized safety apparel for women can be hard to come by in the workplace. In today’s world, women shouldn’t have to settle for wearing PPE garments designed to fit a man. There are several companies that offer product lines for women where fit, function and fashion combine to create workwear that you can put on and forget about, knowing you are compliant and protected.”
While it might take a little more effort on the part of employers, going the extra mile to conduct research and find PPE that will comfortably fit women in the workplace will pay off in the long run.
Not only will those workers be comfortably and properly outfitted, but they will also know that the company values their safety and comfort, which can increase their enjoyment on the job.