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16 AUG 2018
A group of female RICS professionals and role models in the built environment sector have joined forces to front a new virtual summit known as the Surveying Sisterhood. One of their opening conversations addressed the urgent need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that fits female professionals in the construction industry.
Too often women are finding the safety equipment (including gloves, trousers, jackets and boots) doesn’t fit as its designed to fit the average male, leaving female workers feeling excluded, and even worse, putting their safety at risk.
The conversational panel behind the popular Surveying Sisterhood Summit – led by Women in Surveying – tell us more about their experiences on-site, and what they think needs to be done to ensure everybody has safety wear that fits comfortably and keeps people safe.
Marion Ellis founder of InspiringCX - which advise companies and organisations on customer experience strategy and employee advocacy solutions - is the founder and host of the Surveying Sisterhood Summit and Women in Surveying.
I’ve been given high viz jackets and vests that are at least four sizes too big before, and the hard hats never quite fit; you look like a child playing dress-up and that is disempowering when you are mean to be in charge of a building site or are hosting an on-site meeting. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that this topic really sparked a nerve with many female building surveyors and construction professionals who took to Twitter to share their concerns. They are frustrated with ill-fitting safety wear that not only doesn’t protect them, but also restricts or makes it uncomfortable for them to undertake the duties they need to in their role.
We’ve heard from women who are sadly having to adapt the PPE wear they are given (where they can). Some have resorted to using gaffer tape and others have even experienced being turned away and not allowed on site due to the safety equipment not fitting as it should. So, this isn’t a ‘small’ matter – and if we want to attract more female talent into the industry employers really need to up-the-ante and provide suitable PPE wear for all. We know this is not just a female issue, but it affects many of us more, simply due to our size and build.
Fed up with going to building sites and finding no safety boots in smaller sizes Sophie Smith, Building Surveyor at WS Atkins worked with footwear specialist, Amblers to create the ‘Sophie’ safety shoe and most recently the ‘Lydia’ safety boot; both with steel toe-caps and feminine touches.
Not having PPE clothing and equipment that fits has often made me feel like I didn’t ‘fit in.’ I felt like this issue would also result in women leaving the industry, so I was delighted that Amblers took a leap of faith in what is a relatively small sales market. The response to the Sophie and Lydia footwear has been fantastic, with both selling well, and I was honoured to recently win the Best New Comer award at the Professional Clothing Awards.
In order to retain and attract the very best talent, the workwear industry must support inclusivity in our industries. We can change this together by speaking out and working with the industry and professional clothing/PPE designers.
PPE wear has always been a struggle for me. There are so many hazards on-site and being uncomfortable doesn’t make you productive. My employer has produced a range of high viz trousers and jackets especially for women, which is really progressive, and I know Transport for London (TFL) created a stylish high-viz jacket for their female engineers back in 2015, but up until then women at TFL all had to wear the men’s jackets, which are most-likely to have been too big.
There is still a long way to go, but it would be great to see other companies producing a wider range of PPE wear as one-size definitely doesn’t fit all. It’s important we celebrate and champion the firms and workwear organisations that are actively creating more suitable safety wear for all too, as this will encourage others to get on board.
Commercial Manager at Galliford Try