Following a general call to arms (and legs) the Surveying Sisterhood had an open twitter conversation calling for #PPEThatFits.
Whilst not quoted personally my story did make it to the RICS article https://www.rics.org/uk/news-insight/latest-news/news-opinion/surveying-sisterhood-call-for-safety-wear-that-fits/ and has been quoted since so I thought it warranted more than a by-line.
I am short (160cm) and I’m rounder than I would like but I’m owning it. This presents me with two initial problems: to fit my apple on a stick figure I need width in the right places in my clothing; to fit my short stature I need shorter arm and leg lengths. In the male dominated world of PPE this isn’t a recipe for success for me.
The other problem is availability. I work in the public sector therefore procurement of approved PPE is rather mainstream. If the approved supplier doesn’t stock women’s fit PPE I have to try to source and buy my own. But there simply isn’t the choice and availability out there, for me, at the moment.
Now I don’t have to regularly wear PPE these days as a client-side surveyor but when I do it’s always boots, high-viz vest over my own waterproof jacket and a hard hat.
It is usually sufficient.
Not so when visiting a power station.
My usual high-viz vest over my jacket was unacceptable so with dread the onsite search for PPE that would fit began. I was presented with men’s overalls that seriously even if I was 6 feet tall I wouldn’t have fit into. First, I had the humiliation of rejecting the first pair as they wouldn’t go past my thighs (all this in front of my counterpart surveyor and the onsite team). Then an alternative pair were found and whilst the width was there the arms and legs were so long I could have flapped my arms and flown away. I couldn’t walk around the room let alone on site as the arms and legs were a good 40cm too long.
“Just roll ‘em up!” Well that’s not exactly practical or safe – and this is where the gaffer tape came in. Not my finest hour.
Whilst I cannot fault the men in the room for their patience, I struggled to see how any of this could be seen as appropriate or fair. In those moments I was not equal to my counterpart surveyor. I was immediately at a disadvantage and would have to work that much harder to stand my ground in negotiations to come.
Please, please think about adjustable PPE clothing. We may be superwomen, but we are not all Amazons!