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April 11, 2024

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One size really doesn’t fit all

Health and Safety Manager, Thomas Morris (Cert IOSH) on the far-reaching effects of ill-fitting PPE. 

I came across the SHP inclusive PPE campaign while researching the issue for a challenge I was facing in my own workforce. 

Credit: Alamy Stock

PPE struggles are not only associated to a women’s fit, but also to women of differing cultures, faiths and religions; and on an inclusive note (which is what this campaign is about) this also affects both men and women of all backgrounds, cultures, faiths and religions, as well as tribal rules and ethical beliefs.  

To provide just two examples: one is the fit and use of PPE that is aligned with a person’s culture; and the other is for example the use of leather in PPE that some groups would be opposed too. 

Personally, I had a worker of Muslim faith who was required to wear a heavy-duty visor as part of her work tasks. She quickly came forward to let her team know that it was ill fitting due to her headdress. She was unable to tighten it up adequately and it would fall off her head when leaning forward. 

Bound by regulation 

As most safety professionals know, we are bound by regulation that states we must provide PPE that can be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly and, If someone wears more than one item of PPE, are they compatible?

There is no alternative option readily available.”

It makes it almost impossible to comply with the requirements and where we cannot provide, we must find alternative solutions and, in most cases, as much as I hate to say it, this will result in removing the person from the task, which is the action we had to take in this instance. 

I then began my research into a better fitting option. However, there is no alternative option readily available, which is hugely frustrating. Having spent hours looking through various manufacturers and suppliers, as well as cultural websites in the UK and EU there was nothing – at least not visibly. 

We did find a work around in consultation with the individual which involved a set of goggles with a clip-on visor that covered cheek to chin, however, in 2024 I find it astounding that someone should have to put up with sub-standard protection at work because of their religion. 

Some manufacturers may think there isn’t a large market for these PPE requirements but there is, and not only in the UK but globally also. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the NHS’ book, who have a provision for a burka-style gown. It shows a solution can be found, however, this is just one example, and it shows more needs to be done.  

Knock-on effect

More widely, the issue can have a knock-on effect across a workforce; some groups may not want to work because of the issue, or perhaps don’t want to make a ‘fuss’. It ultimately makes employee engagement difficult, can potentially cause mental health or stress issues and increase or create social and workplace segregation thus affect the entire workplace culture. 

I for one am completely behind SHP’s inclusive PPE campaign and call on business, suppliers, and manufacturers to get behind the issues raised to make things right. 

Protection for Everyone - SHP's Inclusive PPE Campaign

SHP is running a campaign to bring awareness around the issues of ill-fitting PPE and lobby Government to bring about change.

We'll work alongside a range of stakeholders including suppliers and distributors, industry bodies, and, importantly, those who have experienced ill-fitting PPE.

Please contact us ([email protected]) to get involved, share your stories and support a campaign that affects everyone!

Click here to find out more!

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