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Construction: ‘It’s Time to Start Designing Women In’

June 13, 2019
Woman carrying plywood on a construction site.

Although little data exists on injuries to women in construction, a report in the Guardian highlighted the ways standard construction materials and PPE designs tend to neglect finding appropriate sizing for female bodies.

The article first cites the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH), which references a U.S. study of union carpenters that found women had higher rates of sprains, strains, and nerve conditions of the wrist and forearm than men. The Guardian says that it’s a “safe bet” to attribute some of the blame to standard construction materials and PPE being designed around the male body.  

The article also points out that in the UK, employers are legally required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers, free of charge. However, most PPE is based on the size of male populations in the U.S. and Europe. The UK’s Trades Union Congress found that employers think purchasing smaller sizes for female workers will fulfill this legal requirement. However, differences in chests, hips, and thighs can affect the way straps fit on safety harnesses. The use of a standard U.S. male face shape for dust, hazard, and eye masks also means they don’t fit most women.

The article says that although designers may believe they are making products for everyone, in reality, they are mainly making them for men, and encourages changes to the process saying, “it’s time to start designing women in.”

With increased conversation around topics of female PPE, companies like Skanska have begun developing custom safety vests tailored to women’s sizes. In the future, it is possible additional companies will follow suit.

Source: The Guardian

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