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March 7, 2016

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Women’s PPE – if it doesn’t fit, don’t wear it!


Amy Womens PPE

Highlighting the difference in fit between women’s PPE (left) and unisex PPE (middle) and men’s PPE (right)

Over the past 12 months Hayley Rail have been working closely with major rail operators to find out what women’s PPE is available in today’s market, and to raise awareness to manufacturers about the importance of ladies PPE within the marketplace. Mark Hammond, manager at Hayley Group PLC, explains.

This has been a more challenging exercise than we first thought. The findings of our research have shown that when it comes to ladies PPE the operative word seems to be ‘unisex’.

What are Hayley Rails findings and outcome of the research, we have found it more difficult and challenging than first thought, when it comes to Ladies PPE “UNISEX” seems to be the buzz word.

Some items – such as over trousers – can fit into a unisex category. These usually include garments that are easily fitted and accommodated as they’re intended to be baggy and oversized, so it’s generally easy to find the correct fit, as due to demand most manufacturers stock this item in a variety of different leg lengths.

It is common sense that tells us if the PPE doesn’t fit correctly then it probably isn’t performing or giving the correct level of protection to the standard specified.

For more on PPE, read our PPE Regulation and Buyer’s Guide

Head and hand protection

If gloves don’t fit correctly, they can make you clumsy, which could affect how efficiently you perform.

Likewise, if you’re wearing a helmet that’s too big, this could impair your vision, compromise your balance and increase the risk of trips and slips through having to use one hand to hold your helmet on.

Working at Height

Fall arrest equipment shouldn’t fall into a unisex category. The difference between men and women’s chest, hips and thighs could affect the angle that the straps fit into a harness.


We often hear that women are routinely wearing two pairs of socks in order to fit into the shoes they’ve been given. Men and women have different shoe lasts, because of the different widths, depths and insteps.

The word ‘universal’ often gets batted around, but half sizes and women’s lasts are now available from manufacturers.

Universal PPE and one-size-fits-all is not acceptable. At Hayley Rail, we have found ladies specific PPE available, including a rail spec foul weather jacket, hi-vis rail spec trousers, smaller fitting eyewear, and boots, all of which have been a great success in trials.

We continually challenge our PPE supply base which consists of all the world leading manufacturers and recognised brands. We constantly reaffirm the message that there is a gap in the market for women’s PPE. Over the next 12 months, Hayley Rail will be working with key manufacturers and suppliers to bring a women’s PPE range to Hayley Rail’s key customers,  recognising the importance for the user to have the  correct PPE available to ensure their safety.

Hayley Rail believe that where safety is concerned, everyone should have the correct fitting PPE to ensure the right level of protection, as well as ensuring comfort, quality and wearability.

Mark Hammond is manager at Hayley Group PLC. For more information and enquiries, please call Hayley Rail on 0121 585 5841 or email [email protected]

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7 years ago

This is a real problem for women who are short, or those of us who are plus-sized. As a woman in the latter category I have an extremely hard time finding appropriate clothing to fit me. Even a men’s 4X waterproof trouser, for instance, is often far too small to fit my hips, and high-vis vests don’t close in front. I will be very happy if you can source such items in sizes larger than a UK 20, which seems to be the limit.

Michael McCann
Michael McCann
7 years ago

See also the Mt. Sinai article “Personal Protective Equipment for Female Construction Workers: Does it Fit?” at:

Michael McCann
Michael McCann
7 years ago

I am a co-author of a Mt. Sinai article “Personal Protective Equipment for Female Construction Workers: Does it Fit?” This article discusses results from focus groups of women construction workers about PPE availability and fitting. The article is available at: