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Ill-Fitting Safety Gear Puts Women at Risk

A new report from the TUC has claimed that less than one in three women are given protective clothing specifically designed for women.

Despite a legal duty on bosses to provide the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their staff free of charge, only 29% of survey respondents said that the PPE they wear to keep them safe at work is specifically designed for women.

The women questioned work in a range of jobs, including in the emergency services, retail and manufacturing, engineering and scientific research.

Many reported that ill-fitting PPE, which isn’t designed to protect women workers, gets in the way of them doing their job safely. For example, the wrong shoes or overalls can increase the chances of tripping, and safety harnesses, belts and body armour can rub against the skin if they do not accommodate breasts or hips.

The problems are particularly acute when women become pregnant. The survey showed half of women who had been pregnant had been forced to cut back on their normal duties or had to change their role in the run up to giving birth due to suitable PPE not being available or supplied to them.

“I’m shocked that so many women – even those working in frontline emergency services – do not have the right protective clothing to do their jobs safely,” commented TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “Bosses’ complacency risks serious injury. It shouldn’t be hard to ensure protective uniforms come in men’s and women’s sizes.”

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