Work-Wear - Health and Safety Issues For Women in the US Construction Industry

in Safety

In the United States the responsibility for health and safety issues in the workplace comes under the remit of the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the construction industry there is input provided by the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH), an independent committee that offers an additional viewpoint to OSHA on construction safety issues. Usually when a risk assessment has been done and it has been decided PPE is required for the workers little thought has gone into the following consideration:

· Is it suitable and appropriate for the risks involved and for the environment in which it will be used?
· Does it prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall level of risk?
· Has the state of health of those employees who will be wearing the PPE been considered?
· What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer, for example restricted vision, the length of time the PPE needs to be worn and the physical demands the PPE places on the wearer?
· Can the appropriate level of training be provided when necessary?

If these basic questions had been asked there would not have been the outcry twenty years ago from many women in the construction industry in the US, certainly the women of Chicago (CWIT - Chicago Women In Trades) and those women making their voices heard in NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety). Unfortunately, many of the issues they raised then have yet to be addressed satisfactorily. In regard to PPE the women complained that there were few if any smaller sizes available - considering the first point in the above list and indeed the second and the fourth points too, this complaint could easily be addressed if comfort and fit had been on the mind of the company buyer responsible for PPE.

Outsize clothing is in itself a hazard! Yet employers felt they were meeting the industry standards and that the women were whining on 'fashion/fit' grounds rather than on occupational safety. Clothing or equipment that is not sized, or does not fit, properly can compromise personal safety. It also may not function effectively in the manner for which it was designed. The report stated that, "Poor fit compromises the protection offered by the garment or equipment. The lack of appropriate PPC and PPE can cause serious safety and health risks for women, and men of smaller sizes, who rely on protective clothing and equipment to help them keep safe.

Having inadequate or ill-fitting clothing, boots, gloves, or safety equipment presents a safety hazard for any worker." It seems there has been little effort to take into account the smaller physique of women and the dimensions for safety workwear like ear, head, and face protection in women's sizes. Footwear and gloves were often inadequate or in appropriate for female workers in construction, which may be due to unavailability (ie, manufacturers don't make or distributors don't stock), limited availability, or lack of knowledge among employers and workers about where equipment designed for a woman's body structure can be obtained. It is not a good enough excuse.

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Jeff Wallis has 1 articles online

Employee of Corporate Clothing company - JKL Clothing, a UK based B2B and B2C clothing company.

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Work-Wear - Health and Safety Issues For Women in the US Construction Industry

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    Vic Sunshine- 2010/10/03 01:33:46 am

    It should be pointed out that OSHA now requires employers to provide personal protective equipment which may include job specific clothing which cannot be worn outside of the workplace. There's several places to get information like this. First, you can check with OSHA, or many states have program templates you may use. http://www.contractorsafetyplans.com is a great site for safety programs for construction safety programs. http://www.cpwr.org is another good site with lots of information for craftworkers, and of course osha.gov's site as well. A good article on the subject.

This article was published on 2010/03/29