Until recently, flame resistant (FR), arc-rated (AR) garments were one size fits all—meaning both men and women wore the same styles. Women in the oil and gas and electrical industries thus donned ill-fitting FR/AR garments day in and day out, because these garments were largely constructed with men in mind. Typically, women have to find FR/AR garments that mostly fit then adjust them throughout the day as they shift out of place.
While this has been common practice, improperly fitted PPE presents a host of challenges—creating a major safety issue for both employers and employees. It is not only unsafe and potentially distracting; it also may discourage women from entering the workforce.
We outline how incorporating FR/AR garments tailored specifically to women can enhance your workplace safety program in three meaningful ways.
1. Improves safety culture
In any work environment, employee safety should be the first priority—no matter their body type. OSHA requires employers to provide workers with proper-fitting PPE to help mitigate the risk of injury in the workplace.
Especially when thermal hazards are present, properly fitted FR/AR garments can be a matter of life and death. If an FR/AR garment is too loose, it may get caught on machinery and cause serious injuries. FR/AR garments that are too large and become untucked can allow space for flames to enter under the garment, which can increase the likelihood of body burn injuries. If an FR/AR garment is too tight or does not cover the body properly, it may expose the wearer, resulting in potentially life-altering burn injuries. If an employee’s FR/AR garments are generally uncomfortable or do not fit properly, employees are less likely to wear them consistently.
Ensuring each employee’s FR/AR PPE meets and exceeds industry standards can help create a culture of safety in the workplace and helps encourage employees to wear their PPE. Knowing their PPE fits properly helps reassure workers they are protected should an arc flash or flash fire occur. It becomes a matter of compliance to provide all workers—both male and female—with garments best suited to their unique body shape.
2. Reduces distraction
When garments do not fit correctly, they often shift out of place and need to be adjusted. This ongoing distraction can reduce employee efficiency and may cause missed deadlines. Outfitting employees with FR/AR garments that fit can help reduce these distractions and help keep their focus on the task at hand. By providing everyone proper-fitting garments—thus allowing workers to focus on the task at hand—a workplace can enable both men and women to be successful on the job.
3. Promotes inclusion
Outfitting employees in FR/AR garments that fit properly help support an inclusive workplace. When a potential employee knows the required clothing for a job will not fit them correctly, they may be less likely to accept positions they are otherwise qualified for. A more inclusive workforce helps create a diverse workplace, which can, in turn, foster a more efficient team1. Additionally, employing a diverse group of people opens opportunities for new ideas and updated ways of thinking to ultimately help move the workplace forward. Having women-specific FR/AR garments available helps broaden the spectrum of people within these industries.
Incorporating women-specific FR/AR PPE will not only help promote safety in the workplace, but it can also lead to a more efficient and inclusive workplace.