Advancing workplace safety with tailored PPE solutions for women

Ross Shapland
Female fit hi vis
← Back to Insights

Tower takes pride in supplying high-quality female PPE. Crafted with our industry insights, our female PPE ensures optimal safety and comfort for women at work.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is crucial for ensuring workplace safety. Moreover, it plays a vital role in prioritising the well-being of employees. Comfortable workwear not only enhances a sense of belonging but also contributes to optimal performance, fostering a positive work environment.

Why is it important to have correctly fitted PPE?

In the world of work gear, tailored mostly for men, women face challenges finding well-fitting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Despite more women entering construction and energy jobs, 71% of PPE is designed for men, leading to safety issues and reduced efficiency for female workers due to poorly fitting gear. Reports reveal women resorting to improvised safety solutions, underscoring the urgent need to address the gender PPE gap.

A woman's face is typically smaller than a man's, leading to potential gaps in safety eyewear and respirators if there is not a close fit. The same sizing concern applies to female hands; improperly fitting gloves can compromise safety by causing a weak grip and excess material. Ensuring the correct size for hand protection is crucial. Beyond safety considerations, comfort also plays a vital role. Uncomfortable PPE may discourage its use, and the absence of specifically designed PPE for women poses a significant risk of inadequate protection for female workers.

PPE is meant for safety, but ill-fitting gear can hinder women's work. Often given a smaller "unisex" fit designed for men, it's clear that much PPE caters to male shapes and sizes, neglecting the differences between men and women. Beyond appearance, the focus is on the crucial connection between proper fit and safety.

At Tower, we're dedicated to change, providing high-quality PPE designed for women based on their feedback, starting today.

PPE specifically for women

Many women face challenges in finding well-fitted everyday clothing, even with a broad selection. A one-size-fits-all solution for does not work for female Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and workwear. The right women's clothing should be crafted to suit the contours of a woman's body. That means featuring a tailored fit around the waist and chest for enhanced comfort and aesthetics. Certain garments also incorporate stretch fabrics or partial elasticity to offer flexibility and a more customised fit.

In simple terms, improperly fitted PPE not only endangers female workers but also hampers their efficiency. Loose garments and gloves pose risks of entanglement in machinery, while oversized boots contribute to avoidable accidents. Reports indicate that women have had to resort to makeshift safety measures, such as tying hairbands on their wrists to prevent gloves from slipping off or wearing extra socks to fit small feet into larger boots.

Female worker wearing PPE
Female worker wearing PPE

The problem with unisex solutions

As women wear these ill-fitting “unisex” solutions, they face an increased risk of getting caught or snagged on objects such as scaffolds and steel reinforcements. This is clearly dangerous. But it also makes women feel that the industry doesn’t want to accommodate for their safety.

Using outdated methods for female-fit PPE can lead to issues and risks. For instance, women's feet are not just smaller but also narrower than men's. A smaller unisex size may not fit securely, potentially causing trip hazards.

Issuing the correct PPE not only ensures that your female employees are protected, but it also improves morale and productivity. Having basics like female-fit PPE ready for new and existing employees makes women feel welcome in the industry.

Incorrectly fitting women's PPE is uncomfortable, unsafe, and can lead to health problems. It might even lead to women choosing not to wear it, posing additional risks to everyone involved.

If we wish to attract and retain more female employees, then we need to care working environments where women feel they belong. Otherwise we will continue to exclude women from male-dominated workforces.

How this affects adversity in the workplace

Uniformity in size or shape is not suitable for everyone, particularly when specific tasks demand certain movements that might be hindered by ill-fitting workwear.

There’s a range of situations where PPE may need to be adapted to meet diverse needs. This can include suitable maternity clothing or clothing options that help employers meet their employees’ religious requirements.

  • PPE for pregnancy

Pregnancy changes the shape of a woman’s body and it’s no surprise that very few male garments are designed to comfortably fit over a baby bump. The right maternity PPE should always conform to ISO 20471.

ISO 20471 covers requirements for fabric colour, reflectivity, and placement of the tape. Other key features under this standard for garments is an elasticated over-bump band and a waist adjustment for cargo-style trousers.

  • Hijab & burka-friendly PPE clothing

It can be difficult to find appropriate PPE or protective workwear to be worn with a hijab or burka, making it a challenge to adhere to religious values whilst complying with health & safety requirements. But it is important for employers to provide PPE that is religiously inclusive whilst also keeping them safe.

Though they may predominate in fields like child care and veterinary care, women make up less than 15% of the workforce in the UK construction industry, with even fewer of them working "on the tools" on construction sites. Similar imbalances exist in other industries, which may lead to women's workwear needs being overlooked.

Women desire comfort, safety, and happiness in their clothing, but most importantly, they seek gender-specific designs tailored to their bodies. They want workwear that accommodates weight fluctuations and includes practical features, such as additional pockets, similar to men's workwear adaptations.

We take pride in supplying top-quality PPE designed for the female body, incorporating valuable feedback from women in the industry.

Watch our exclusive interview with PPE designer and fashion design consultancy Pen to Peg, Paula Cannon, to learn more about what women want from PPE workwear and the problems they face every day. Looking at the challenges women face when given unisex or poorly designed clothing to wear and what they really want from their PPE & workwear.

Tower’s ever-evolving female PPE range

As one of the UK’s leading independent distributors of PPE for over 40 years, our services and products are tried and tested by the British Safety Industry Federation (BSiF) to achieve Registered Safety Supplier scheme approval. A process that ensures our PPE meets an incredibly high standard to keep workplaces and our customers safe.

As more and more women enter sectors such as the construction industry, the industry will become more diverse and inclusive, leading to better outcomes for everyone involved.

We’re extremely proud to supply high-quality PPE that has been designed for the female body using feedback received from women working within the industry. Such as this high-visibility coverall:

Microsoft Teams image 5 1
(Above: Our improved high-visibility coverall)

As you can see, the regular unisex style has been amended to include chevron high-visibility tape for additional stretch and comfort. Plus, raglan sleeves to prevent the coverall from riding up.

Simple changes, that make ALL the difference. We’ve even adapted everyday items like our sweatshirts.

220210 Before After Sweatshirt
(Above: Our improved sweatshirt)

This new female-fit style features a high collar, ¼ zip fastening, raglan sleeves to prevent the coat from pulling up, as well as a thumb loop to ensure sleeves don’t ride up. Plus, we’ve ensured it’s made from an ultra-lightweight fabric for an enhanced user experience.

But these are just two products from our brand new and ever-evolving female PPE range.

Providing the correct workwear and PPE for women isn’t an optional extra. Proper protective equipment and clothing for women is a step towards gender equality and helps encourage and grow female talent in a range of industries.

So how does Tower support PPE for women?

We believe that PPE needs to fit all members of your workforce. That’s why we offer a wide range of female-fit PPE. We will work with you and your female employees to find the right solution using our collaborative approach to supplier partnership.

We’re already making simple changes that make a BIG difference. And we’re on a mission to improve on “unisex” designs, which are predominantly still designed for men. Tower are so dedicated to fixing the gender gap issue, that we’re currently working with a designer who understands the challenges women face, to create a high-quality range of ARC flash and fire resistant (FR) clothing within our own exclusive FireBear Range.

The new range has been specifically cut, styled and measured around women who need ARC flash and FR clothing. Unlike many unisex offerings, we’re developing a range that delivers the comfort and performance that women demand.

We believe it is of vital importance that women feel represented when it comes to workwear, especially PPE.

Does this mean the hard work is over? Not at all. Whilst helping bridge the gap, there is still room for us and the industry to improve. But by working closely with customers, suppliers and manufacturers of PPE, we will continue to make big strides in safety, comfort and morale for all female workers.

To find out more and to learn how Tower can keep your female workers safe don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Give us a call on 01202 718000 or fill out the form below to find out more.

Female Fit PPE Guide

Female Fit PPE

PPE that fits properly is an essential element of workplace safety.

Request latest version
Female Fit PPE Guide

Female Fit PPE

PPE that fits properly is an essential element of workplace safety.

Get in touch...

Microsoft Teams image 8
Ross Shapland
Committee Member
Share Article