Women in construction need more than just pink workwear to feel safe on the jobsite

For women, obtaining appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is challenging. However, resorting to stereotypical feminine colors as a remedy does not address the underlying problem. And according to women in a male populated industry, the pink hinders how they are taken seriously in a professional setting.

The phrase “shrink it and pink it” describes the act of taking products created by men for men, then simply scaling them down and coloring them pink or another stereotypically feminine color. This is not an ideal strategy when PPE that is geared towards women already makes them feel like they stand out even more. In an article by The 19th, Rachel Martino said, “A student in a metal shop she works at recently tried to be helpful by showing her a website that stocked women’s options. Everything was pink.”

Women’s Safety in the Construction Industry

The “shrink it and pink it” approach may not be suitable for designing PPE for women in construction. When women are present on a jobsite, their attention should not be diverted by contemplating the safety of equipment that is intended to protect them. For years women in the industry didn’t have many choices in their workwear. The lack of PPE designed specifically to suit women’s body types, forced them to wear the same oversized apparel as their male colleagues.

This can result in ill-fitting PPE that poses a safety hazard. On the other hand, tight-fitting PPE may lead to discomfort and incorrect wear. It’s essential to design PPE that meets the specific needs of women in construction, ensuring their safety and comfort while on the job. In a survey by the CSA Group, “nearly 40% (of 3,000) reported experiencing an injury or incident that they perceived to be related to their PPE.”

The Department of Labor announced a proposed rule to clarify personal protective equipment standards in construction. “If personal protective equipment does not fit properly, an employee may be unprotected or dangerously exposed to hazards and face tragic consequences,” says Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health.

Effects of proper PPE at work:

  • Retention of employees
  • Improved work culture
  • Cost saving to company
  • Reduce risk of injury

Prioritizing Women’s Safety: A Guide to Finding the Right PPE

When it comes to personal protective equipment, finding gear that is appropriately designed for women’s body types can be a challenge. It may take a lot of research and/or knowing about brands and companies through word of mouth. A big barrier to achieving equitable PPE access for women in the workplace is a lack of knowledge among buyers about the available PPE lines and brands designed specifically for women. Additionally, buyers often prioritize discounted bulk purchases over selecting workwear that suits the needs of all employees on the job site.

There is a limited platform for the smaller businesses who are designing women’s personal protective equipment. Founder of The Safety Rack, Amy Roosa reviews PPE for women in the trades. She uses her platform to bring awareness to the smaller yet very important businesses women and people in the industry need.

As times change, our bodies change too, making it essential to design PPE that meets these changes. Inclusivity is a vital aspect to consider, and there is now a movement towards better PPE for women, which is gaining momentum. What can be done to help combat this challenge? First and foremost, keep advocating for properly fitting PPE. Stay informed about brands, companies, and businesses that cater to your needs, and share that information with others. With this knowledge, you can ensure that both you and your colleagues are safe and comfortable while on the job.

Women’s Workwear and NAWIC 

As the leading organization for women in the industry, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) advocates for all women in the construction industry. NAWIC members have access to resources provided by the NAWIC Safety and Health Committee and Tradeswomen Committee. Want to know more about where to find proper fitting PPE? Watch the recent webinar hosted by the Tradeswomen Committee.

NAWIC provides support, networking and mentorship, leadership training and educational opportunities for more than 6,100 members in 118 chapters across the US,. Want to know more? Contact a chapter near you.