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Call to improve women’s offshore PPE

18 October 2021

RED WING is leading the call for the North Sea offshore industry to come together to close the gender PPE gap and improve the safety of women’s kit.

The provider said female workers were being put at risk by being given men’s PPE, with many having to roll-up coverall legs and sleeves, as well as not having appropriately fitting footwear. With potential hazards caused by ill-fitting PPE including sleeves getting snagged in machinery, long trouser legs resulting in slips, trips and falls – as well as fraying and damage to hem – the need for change is about more than aesthetics. There is also a danger associated with flash fires if clothing doesn’t fit properly.

The call comes after a survey by the AXIS Network, in partnership with Step Change in Safety, found 62% of women said their coveralls didn’t fit effectively, while 51% said their outerwear / jacket wasn’t suitably sized. 

Dez Young, senior HR of Red Wing Shoes said, “Women not having the right PPE is something that has been accepted for too long, and the solution is out there. Over 70% of our customers feature women’s-fit PPE in their safety programmes, which shows that availability and price isn’t the issue. However, the kit is still not reaching those who need it. 

“We know from our research that women working offshore and the purchasing teams buying products on their behalf, don’t fully understand why women’s PPE is so important. They also aren’t aware of the tools they need to find the right fitting coverall for them. 

“It’s not just about comfort or looks, it’s about safety, and we have a duty as an industry to keep everybody as safe as possible.”

To drive compliance, the international organisation, which has been making work boots specifically for women since 1926, has produced a Right Fit Toolkit, complete with visual sizing guide and correct fit instructional video for offshore companies to ensure workers get the right kit. 

Dez added: “There is a need to educate procurement departments to enable them to offer the right kit to the right people. We want women to know the PPE they need is available, but they shouldn’t have to wait to be offered it. That’s why we have created the Right Fit Toolkit – to help make the process of getting the correct PPE easier.”

The issue was highlighted at The Right Fit event, which was held in collaboration with Wood, the OGUK Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, AXIS Network, Harbour Energy, Step Change in Safety, East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), and the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH), in an attempt to tackle the challenges in accessing work wear and making offshore PPE more inclusive.

With offshore PPE regulations making clear reference to appropriate education, access, fit and compliance, the company is in a unique position as both a manufacturer and a distributor of multiple brands of PPE to provide everyone – male or female – with effective head to toe PPE. 

As such, Red Wing has implemented a four-point supply matrix based on availability, quality, price and compliance. Red Wing hubs in Dubai, Stavanger and Houston, as well as Aberdeen, commit to hold ladies workwear solutions ensuring the company provides quality kit across its global locations. 

Onsite tailoring services also help the wearer get that extra comfort level, while driving customers towards standard garments helps remove the cost associated with minimum order quantities, which is often perceived as a barrier to purchase. 

Amy Kraft, senior product line merchant, Red Wing Shoes said, “Women just want to be treated fairly and have their safety concerns listened to, something that has been backed up by our research. We regularly ask women what they need and want from PPE, and the answer is simple – equality, whether that is in something as straightforward like the colour of their kit, or PPE that’s in the same style as their male counterparts.

“Something as simple as going to the toilet is made incredibly difficult for women due to the PPE they are issued with. That’s not right. To address that challenge, we have developed one-piece coveralls, with innovative zipper placement that allows easy toilet access.”

Jon Bodicoat, Red Wing Europe managing director added, “Companies, distributors and manufacturers have the responsibility to ensure every person has the correct clothing to keep them safe, while giving them the opportunity to succeed. A more inclusive workforce is commonly linked to performance. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make women’s fit available. We need to have an open discussion on what the worker needs rather than what it will cost.”

In addition to on demand fit-tools, fit kits can also be provided to customers, giving them the option to try a range of sizes ahead of their trip. As well as staff training at customer sites both on and offshore, Red Wing Aberdeen is also offering free fit services from its base in Altens Industrial Estate.