Canadian Occupational Safety

Feb/March 2017

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 23 of 27

24 Canadian Occupational Safety W hen A my Charette, a journeyperson welder, was just starting out in the late 1990s and needed to buy her own personal protective equipment (PPE), she had a hard time fi nding PPE that fi t her properly. As a woman in the trades, she had to rely on men's PPE. "In gloves, there was nothing under a medium. When I started, that was the smallest size you could get," says Charette, program co-ordinator at Edmonton-based Women Building Futures, which provides trades train- ing and housing for women. "I remember, as an apprentice, the ends of my gloves would hang off my fi ngers and burn in the radiant heat of the arc. They would crimp up because I couldn't get my hands all the way into the gloves. They were so big. I would have to roll them or put my coveralls over them, or they would fall off my hands when my hands were at rest beside me. So safety was a primary concern." Many women workers are com- pelled to wear PPE designed for men. Even those in smaller sizes tend to not fi t properly: Women are typically smaller, have shorter arms, more slen- der hands and feet and faces that are shaped differently. Loose or dispro- portionate PPE can itself become a safety hazard and put workers at risk. When women wear men's fl ame- resistant (FR) clothing, for example, they are wearing safety clothing that doesn't fi t them properly, says Mark Saner, FR technical manager at Oxnard, Calif.-based Workrite Uniform Company. With any uncom- fortable clothing, there's a tendency for workers to not wear them properly or not wear them at all. "There are more and more women in these work environments that need FR clothing, so it's important for them to have the right kind of safety PPE when they are doing their jobs," he says. Some of the ways women have adapted men's FR clothing makes it unsafe, Saner says. If the pant legs are too long, for example, they often roll them up at the bottom. If a woman is wearing a man's shirt that fi ts her torso, it's likely the sleeves will be too long and she will roll them up. If the shirt is too long in the tail because it's made for a man's torso, she may not tuck it in. "Now, you have that open area between the shirt and the pant that's a hazard for heat and fl ames to blow up underneath. You're supposed to keep the shirts tucked in but you can't bunch a whole big wad of your shirt- tail into a pant if it's a man's versus a woman's shirt. It makes it uncomfort- able, all bunched up in there," he says. Women's FR clothing is identical to men's in the FR fabric, sewing thread, buttons and zippers and differs only in cut and design, he says. The waist area is usually contoured differently, and measurements through the seat and thighs are different. The shirt has darts in the back or chest area, and sleeves may be slightly shorter. The buttons, as with street clothing, are on the left side. RE-DESIGNING THE COVERALL Sudbur y, Ont.-based Covergalls specializes in manufacturing PPE designed for women, including FR coveralls and bibs. Company CEO and creator, Alicia Woods, designed coveralls for women working in mining and presented them on the CBC television program Dragon's Den in 2014. Woods, also general manager at Marcotte Mining Machinery Services, says she was driven to devise coveralls for women out of her own frustra- tion of wearing men's PPE. She had both safety and health concerns. In mines, loose-fi tting coveralls present constant safety problems. "When you have big, baggy cloth- ing on, there's a risk of getting it caught in machinery. I've seen girls just get a roll of duct tape and tape their sleeves up because they're big and baggy and they want to prevent their garments getting caught," she says. "There's also a risk of tripping. And if you have to climb an escape ladder, you're going to struggle wear- ing men's coveralls. So women need Don't just SHRINK IT and PI NK IT By Linda Johnson Many women in hazardous jobs still wear ill-fi tting safety gear made for men and and PI NK PI NK Many women in hazardous jobs Many women in hazardous jobs

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