Have you thought much about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) fit? If you have ever had gloves or a Tyvek suit that are too big, I’m sure you have. We know one size does not fit all when it comes to PPE. I recently wrote a blog about Pesticide Safety for Women and Families. This week I’m going to continue in that vein by more specifically discussing PPE fit for women and those who don’t have a traditional male physique. Women are a smaller part of the pesticide applicator workforce as well as other fields which require PPE like construction and industrial hygiene. This has resulted in a lack of PPE designed for women. However, there are some options out there and things that can be done to ensure your PPE fits.
Oversize or poorly fitted PPE gets in the way and can lead to accidents and injuries that could otherwise be avoided. To promote safety, PPE needs to fit the various shapes and sizes our bodies may take. Unisex gear is not the same as gear for women. Additionally, smaller sizes of men’s styles or children’s sizes are not always sufficient. Employers should be ordering PPE specific to the individuals on their teams, not just 10 boxes of every size, and hoping for the best. Not having good fitting PPE may lead to employees simply not wearing the ill-fitting garments provided. Help yourself and your employer by finding the right makes and sizes of PPE that work for you.
Gloves and Visibility
There are some pieces of PPE that are easier to find options for than others. Gloves come in about a million materials, densities, and sizes. We have previously written a blog on glove fit that covers some of these options. High visibility garments like vests are something we don’t always need in pesticide applications but they aren’t a bad idea. For example, if you are spraying the edge of a lawn in a high traffic area, it is not a bad idea to make yourself more visible. You may want a vest and you’ll want it to fit comfortably. It is important it’s not going to get caught up in your equipment. Also, I know this may be a shocker but women’s chests are not the same as men’s. This means there need to be different shape options available and not just different sizes.
Waders are something those of us who work in the aquatic world may have struggled with. For women, child’s sizes do not account for our hips while men’s sizes are often not small enough in the feet. This can inhibit you from getting the waders on, or cause chaffing on your feet. Sometimes we need to get creative when sourcing our PPE. Since the pesticide industry does not have PPE made especially for us, think outside of our realm, who else uses waders? I happen to be an avid fisherwoman so I know that there are waders made for women through the fishing attire industry. If you need this kind of PPE I would encourage you to ask your employer if you can shop around and get the waders that will fit you well. This can prevent you from injuries and overall allow you to do your work safely.
Eye protection, hearing protection, and respirators are other types of PPE where the fit is important. Both eye and hearing protection can be found through Fastenal. This group has been working to provide solutions for women’s PPE. They have several options for different types of PPE you may need to protect your vision and hearing. If a respirator is needed to apply your product there are federal regulations that require them to fit properly. Look below to see our EDIS document on respirators. Employers must provide you with a medical evaluation, fit test, and training if you are applying a product that requires a respirator. This is one piece of PPE there should be no excuse for not having a good fit as it could literally be life threatening.
If you are concerned about your health and safety in regard to PPE check out the rules and regulations provided by OSHA. The U.S. Department of Labor specifically states on their site that One Size Does Not Fit All when it comes to PPE. We at the PIO also want to add that we know not everyone identifies as male or female. It is important that you find the PPE that fits you regardless of your gender identity. We are also not associated with or sponsored by any of the websites or companies we have mentioned for obtaining PPE.
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