WorkSafeBC, the province’s workers’ compensation board, is reminding employers about a newly implemented guideline outlining requirements to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) fits properly for all workers, regardless of their gender.

A press release by WorkSafe said that the new guideline looks to target the issue of ill fitting PPE, which can compromise worker safety, with the issue being particularly pronounced for women in traditionally male-dominated industries. They said women in construction, construction, mining, and firefighting have reported experiencing discomfort and reduced mobility, along with concerning safety issues, due to PPE that is designed primarily for men.

“We recognize that the differences in body shape and size between men and women can make it challenging to find PPE that fits properly,” said Suzana Prpic, senior manager of prevention field services at WorkSafeBC. 

“We want to make sure that all workers are protected and comfortable while on the job, and that means ensuring that PPE is designed and fitted to accommodate a wide range of body types.”

The new guideline, a part of WorkSafeBC’s OHS Guidelines Part 8 since last November, outlines the requirements for the design, selection, and use of PPE that is appropriate for those on the job. The guideline includes specific guidance on how to measure and fit PPE to a wide range of body types.

Given the increasing number of women entering traditionally male-dominated industries in B.C., WorkSafeBC said the move to introduce the new guideline will ensure worker safety and address concerns. They noted that the guideline was based on recommendations from experts in the field, as well as feedback from workers and employers across the province.

“We are committed to promoting a safe and healthy work environment for all workers,” added Prpic, who noted that WorkSafeBC will continue to monitor the issue. “This new guideline is an important first step in achieving that goal, and we encourage all employers to review and implement it in their workplaces.”

Along with the new guideline, WorkSafeBC said it plans to launch a research competition this year around the gendered nature of work, with one of the subtopics of interest being inclusive PPE design, and barriers to employer uptake of options for women.