How Women's PPE is Designed Differently
THERE IS A GROWING NUMBER OF WOMEN IN ELECTRICAL UTILITY WORK
According to data in the US from 2005, women made up approximately 3.5% of the electrical utility workforce. Over the last fifteen years, this number has grown exponentially and is now sitting around 14%.
Additionally, an almost identical growth rate can be observed in similar industries including Oil & Gas where women now make up 15% of the workforce. The same can be seen in Industrial Safety where that number now sits at nearly 1/5th, or 19%.
With that said, it comes as no shock that workforces have become more diverse over time, but the real question is what's to be gained from this data? Are the numbers across these industries important?
A growing number of women in these industries means that there is a growing demand for women's fit PPE. However, the problem lies in that there is still a lack of viable options and availability of proper FR clothing to this segment of workers.
COMMON CHALLENGES OF WOMEN'S FIT PPE
Historically, women have had limited options when it comes to personal protective equipment, or more commonly referred to as PPE.
However, the root of this issue was not due to the fact that it wasn't possible to make, but rather since there have always been so few women in these fields of work, it was not always profitable for many companies to produce gender-specific PPE.
Today, with a growing number of women in these jobs that require flame resistant clothing, the PPE landscape is changing to include garments that are tailored to specific fits.
WHY IS PPE FIT SO IMPORTANT?
1. Proper coverage
To quote OSHA.gov, "If the personal protective equipment does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed."
- PPE designed to protect from arc flash and flash fire should properly cover the skin
- Exposed skin in the event of an arc flash can result in severe burns, much like an ill-fitting mask will not properly protect its wearer from harmful chemicals
2. Ideal body fit
PPE that contours to the shape of the worker's body will ensure that they can work comfortably without the risk of unnecessary hazards
- Ideal fit ensures that the garment is not too loose or too tight
- It will not get caught in, or snag on machinery or other items/tools present in the workplace
- Allows for a full range of motion; this is especially important in physically demanding roles like linework
3. Maximizes protective characteristics
A proper fit will ensure the garment will give the wearer its maximum amount of protective potential in the event of a hazard.
In reference to the aforementioned quote from OSHA, "it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed."
4. Comfort on the job
This one goes without saying — a better fit means better comfort.
I'm sure we've all experienced the difference a perfectly-fitting pair of jeans makes when compared to something that offers just an "average" fit.
- Better comfort helps to encourage better work
- Feeling comfortable in work clothes is essential to reducing the stress of a physical job
- While protection is the utmost priority, a comfortable worker is a happier worker
HOW IS WOMEN'S PPE DESIGNED DIFFERENTLY?
Now that we've covered the number of ways a proper fit enables a garment to work to its full potential, we can better understand the various methods used to tailor women's FR garments for an ideal fit.
WHY MEN'S GARMENTS DON'T WORK FOR WOMEN
As a reference point, let's cover the basic design of a men's shirt.
- Broad shoulders and a wider neck
- Longer sleeves
- Narrow waist/hips — a more "straight-up-and-down" design that contours better at the shoulders
- Greater overall garment length
Now, let's look at why traditional men's tailoring wouldn't work for a women's shirt
- Women tend to have more narrow shoulders/neck — this results in "swimming" in a shirt or too much excess room throughout the upper torso
- The sleeves will extend past the wrists
- Narrow waist/hip construction does not follow a woman's curves — a men's design will feel tight at the hips, but too large in the shoulders, almost the exact opposite of how it would fit for men
- The garment may be too long for many women
WHAT ARE DRAGONWEAR'S SOLUTIONS TO THESE FIT ISSUES?
To continue with the reference on the basic design of a t-shirt, DragonWear's women's FR t-shirts are tailored nearly opposite to that of men's
- The shoulders and neck are made narrower
- Sleeves are better proportioned for a proper fit
- Shaped to accommodate curves; Hips and waist are tailored for a better fit
- Shorter overall garment length
Similar design and tailoring practices are applied to women's FR outerwear as well with a heavy emphasis on allowing the garment to contour to a woman's body.
Below is a visualization of our Alpha™ Women's Super Fleece jacket superimposed on top of the men's version of the same garment.
A few noticeable design differences include:
- A more narrow collar diameter
- Trim sleeve fit
- Shorter sleeve length
- Narrower shoulders
- Contoured chest and waist
- Flaring at the hips so the garment sits more comfortably
DragonWear's collection of Women's PPE currently consists of two Super Fleece™ jackets and a variety of base layer shirts including a hi-vis orange option.
MEET OUR DESIGNERS
PPE for women, designed by women.
Here are the brains behind DragonWear women's PPE
Rosalie has been designing and developing new garments for DragonWear since 2015. Over her 34 year career, she has worked in all facets of garment development from concept to factory production. Her personal focused goal is to make the best quality garment that fits well and performs to perfection. Her ultimate goal, she says, is "to let my customer feel comfortable, effective and happy."
After completing an internship in the past, Emelia started working full time at DragonWear in 2018, shortly after graduating college for Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Her expertise lies in working with the creative and technical design aspects for FR clothing and gear including creating samples and 3D modeling.
Here's what we've covered:
1. There is a growing number of women in utility work
For reference, the number of women in electrical utility work has grown over 10.5% over the last decade. This illustrates a growing demand for specialized tailoring in PPE that currently isn't being fully met in the FR market.
2. PPE fit and sizing is important
The efficacy of a garment is greatly influenced by how well it fits. If a worker is wearing a garment that is too large or tight, it can leave skin exposed or extra fabric to get caught in machinery or other objects in the workplace. This is especially important for workers protecting from arc flashes and flash fires.
3. Women's garments are designed nearly opposite to that of men's
We covered the various differences in design between men's and women's garments and how it influences the overall fit. Women can't buy one size down in a men's because the problem isn't with the sizing, but rather the overall construction of the garment.