The practical problems of working women in working men’s clothing

The practical problems of working women in working men’s clothing

South Africa is seeing an increase in female workers in industrial environments as the traditional barriers of gender specific roles are being broken down.  However, from a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) perspective, women are still pigeon-holed with the expectation that they should wear either male or unisex PPE.  There is a fundamental difference in the size and shape between a woman and man’s body, often creating discomfort and even potential risk for women. Furthermore, what many businesses don’t realise is that ill-fitting PPE is impacting the productivity of the female workforce in the workplace.   The Hazards The basic concept of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is to protect the worker from the potential hazards in their working environment. When it comes to safety footwear, the hazards may include slipping, falling objects, corrosive chemicals and solvents, sharp protruding metals and shavings and anti-static charges just to name a few. PPE is supposed to protect a person from these dangers in the workplace. One Size Does Not Fit All If we look at a typical woman’s foot, the contours differ to that of a man’s in that the female foot is generally narrower. As such, a women’s size five shoe would need to be shaped differently to that of a man’s size five shoe, ensuring a comfortable and secure fit. A man’s shoe may fit a woman’s foot from the toe to the heel, however, it would typically be too wide in breadth. And as a result, her foot may oscillate within the shoe. Overtime, the oscillation puts strain on her ankle, which leads to strain on the knee and subsequently...