Opinion

#PPEthatfits: it’s not a fashion show

The progress achieved through the #PPEthatfits campaign and people in the industry who care about health and safety shows that there are no excuses left for ill-fitting PPE, writes Katherine Evans.

#PPEthatfits
#PPEthatfits has created a directory of manufacturers making inclusive PPE

For people who work in construction and other heavy industries, PPE is often the only protection preventing injury, despite what you’ve been fed about it being the “last layer of defence”.

For PPE wearers who don’t have PPE that fits correctly, they have an additional hazard with them at all times that may well be the cause of their injury.

Over the past 20 months, I’ve pushed the PPE revolution with information I’ve gained through the Bold as Brass tribe, alongside people who care about creating change.

I’ve gathered experiences from women who work on the ground, at the sharp and dirty end, inside this safety equipment that is there to save their life and limb but that is so often too big, too long, too loose, too tight, unisex (i.e. designed around a man’s body), and in general not fit for purpose as safety equipment.

Photo of a woman wearing a blue uniform.

“This is not a fashion show: this is about our safety, our future and our career progression.”

Katherine Evans, Bold as Brass

I’ve thrown myself into absorbing as much data as I can from the people I’ve met in the PPE manufacturing industry, as well as safety standards, testing and regulations, and those end users who have intersectional requirements not yet being catered for.

In doing so, I’ve discovered how little many onsite and corporate safety people and distributors know about PPE, fit and deployment. It is little wonder we the workers find ourselves leading this revolution.

This is not a fashion show: this is about our safety, our future and our career progression. It’s about increasing the safety of the people who use and need PPE to carry out their jobs.

Creating change

Along this PPE journey, I’ve built strong relationships with people and acted as a mediator towards creating real change – change that allows everyone to be safe, work to the best of their ability and feel like they belong in the industry.

Collaboration with those who ‘get it’, like CIOB, CIOB People, and Construction Management, as well as voicing the reasoning behind the campaign and spotlighting the broken links at every given opportunity, has been key to our success so far.

In feeding into the #PPEthatfits campaign, we’ve been able to work together to create a directory of manufacturers and brands that are making inclusive PPE for people who aren’t average-size men.

Individuals, businesses and suppliers can choose from brands making PPE for underrepresented groups in heavy industry, alongside honest, factual comments to assist the end user, not the manufacturer’s sales.

There’s no excuses left

For too long, many suppliers in the UK have fed purchasers the line “there’s no market in it”, refusing to stock or find inclusive PPE, or creating terribly fitting tat to plug a hole in the market, leaving people who fall into the non-average-sized-men group at risk.

Equally irresponsible employers have absorbed this line, and instead of moving to a distributor that could supply them with equipment to protect their entire workforce, they have left their underrepresented workforce to shoulder the risk.

The equipment is there, decent distributors are there, the #PPEthatfits directory is there. Business owners: there are no excuses left. We are pushing this campaign for the end user’s safety, their ability to do their jobs to the best of their ability, the ethical diversification of our industry, and not to line the pockets of individuals, suppliers, or manufacturers.

You can learn more about #PPEthatfits and get involved with the campaign here.

Katherine Evans is the lead founder of the Bold as Brass women’s support group and gender equity and culture consultant at Bold as Brass Consulting Services.

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