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Poorly fitting PPE can cause, worsen injuries

Female construction workers are still relatively few and far between. However, it’s not as uncommon to see a woman working on a construction site or maybe doing road or bridge construction work as it once was.

While the women who choose this line of work can be every bit as skilled and experienced as men, they face some unique challenges. One is getting personal protective equipment (PPE) that properly fits them. In one survey, two-thirds of women cited this problem. The percentage was higher (85%) for pregnant women.

Not solely an issue for women

Women aren’t the only ones who sometimes are forced to settle for poorly fitting PPE. A tall, muscular man may be the stereotypical image of a construction worker. However, male construction workers come in all shapes and sizes. Manufacturers already carry women’s sizes and a variety of sizes for all workers, regardless of gender.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires construction businesses to provide all of its workers with PPE that fits them properly. It has proposed a new rule that would “make the PPE fit requirement for the construction industry identical to general industry and maritime requirements.” OSHA notes, “The issue of improperly fitting PPE is particularly important for smaller construction workers, including some women, who may not be able to use standard size PPE.”

How can wearing the wrong size PPE endanger workers?

When these items – particularly things like safety vests and gloves — are too big and loose, they can get caught in equipment or fall off completely. When PPE worn on the face, like masks and goggles, are too big, they don’t provide adequate protection. When some types of PPE, like harnesses, vests and face protection, are too tight, they can harm circulation. When any PPE fits improperly, workers are more likely to remove it, leaving them unprotected.

Every employer has an obligation to ensure that their workers are as safe as possible. That involves giving them PPE that fits them as it should. Whether a worker is injured because of improperly fitting PPE or in spite of having appropriate PPE, it’s critical that they understand their rights under Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation rules and process for seeking the necessary benefits to help with medical costs and lost wages. Having legal guidance can help workers and their families protect their rights accordingly.


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