Look to the Margins to Improve Safety for All

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The American Society of Safety Professionals is working to get business owners to focus on serving the safety needs of workers on “the margins of the margins,” said Abby Ferri, vice president of the national construction practice for Hays Companies and administrator of the Women in Safety Excellence (WISE) common interest group for ASSP.

For WISE, that effort focuses on women, but as Ferri noted, “women speaking up … might be something that can help other people.” She pointed out that most men will ask for large or extra-large sizes of personal protective equipment, even if that’s not the best fit for them, and this population may be even less likely to speak up.

“Listening to the needs of the people on the margins” is an important first step in providing equipment that works, she said. That means safer workplaces, more profitable businesses and a wider pool of labor to choose from.

RELATED: Workplace Deaths Decline in 2017, but Colorado Construction Deaths Rise

Ferri noted that women who have to make due with equipment that doesn’t fit them often leave the industry. They think, “‘This might not be the job for me,’ or ‘I look like an idiot. I look like I’m wearing my dad’s clothes or I don’t know how to size myself properly,'” she said.

That’s a negative frame of mind in which to start the work day, Ferri noted. On top of the added risk caused by PPE that slips off or bunches up, women who want to advance in their jobs may worry about the impression they give of their qualifications when they’re wearing equipment that doesn’t fit.

WISE is working on a technical report to recommend fit guidelines for PPE based on individual users, rather than a generic range. Ferri said the group took inspiration from size guides on hosiery packaging, where sizes are reflected in a matrix of height and weight.

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