Many occupations require employees to wear some kind of personal protective equipment (PPE). It’s crucial that employees not only have the right PPE for their work but that it fits them properly.
When items like masks, for example, are too loose, any substances the mask is supposed to protect a person from breathing can get inside. The same is true with gloves and other body coverings.
That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a new rule that would require construction workers’ PPE to fit them properly. That might seem like a no-brainer. However, the current rule only requires that PPE be adequate. The new rule would clarify that it needs to fit each worker properly. According to OSHA, approximately 10% of construction workers don’t have PPE that fits them properly.
The change won’t just benefit women
While construction is still a male-dominated industry, females in the industry often are forced to wear oversized PPE, including helmets, safety vests and gloves. However, women in the industry advocating for this change emphasize that it will benefit many men as well.
Men come in all shapes and sizes. Smaller men often have issues with poorly fitting protective gear. Very large people may be provided with PPE that doesn’t cover them properly or rips. Either way, in addition to not providing adequate protection, it’s more likely to be removed because it’s uncomfortable or gets in the way (or even caught in machinery).
One woman in the construction industry notes that manufacturers of PPE are already making their products in a wide variety of sizes. It’s just a matter of businesses purchasing them. She also notes, “We are more likely to get people to use it and wear it when it’s made for their size.”
The public comment period for the rule just ended, so OSHA will now consider these comments and possibly make some revisions accordingly before publishing the final rule. In the meantime, however, it’s crucial for all workers to ensure that they’re provided with PPE that fits and protects them properly and to speak up if they don’t have it.
If you’ve suffered an injury or illness due to improperly fitting PPE, remember that you have the right to seek workers’ compensation to cover medical expenses and help recover lost wages. If you have questions or issues around getting the benefits you need and deserve, it can help to get legal guidance.