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Advocacy for Women's Fit and PPE (3)

Exciting Update and CALL TO ACTION: Complete the CSA Survey for Canadian Women who rely on PPE for safety on the job

When last I wrote in Part 2 of this series, I had been asked to participate in the advisory group for the "CSA Research Group Investigating the Challenges Canadian Women Face Regarding Work Mandated PPE".

This is an accounting of my personal experience.

Our initial advisory group meeting didn't get off to a great start, as one of the loudest voices at the table was a 4+ decades long stakeholder in the manufacturing sector for safety coveralls.

He asserted that there's "never been a better time to talk about improving women's experience with safety wear", that to date "the numbers have been small for women in trades and STEM so it hasn't made good business sense to offer women-specific safety wear". I left the meeting with my blood boiling and my head reeling.

This unfortunate profit driven logic is something I've heard echoed from major industry stakeholders over and over again - that the math doesn't make sense for women in trades and STEM to have safety wear designed and graded for their bodies...but I have to ask, when we're talking safety how many women does it take before we start to matter?

For the record, I don't buy that argument. The Canada Building Trades alone have over 20,000 women (over 500,000 total workers, at 4% female representation).

Since then, I have had nothing but positive experiences working with the group on the literary review process. I have been able to share some of my research (eg: this study from the 1970's) supporting the argument that women's body proportions are distinct and cannot be accurately represented by scaling down men's body proportions.

After the literary review module was complete, we moved on to drafting survey questions to drill down to the meat of women's experiences with PPE on the job. Once the group was satisfied with the survey questions, we all contributed with our national networks to circulate the survey widely to Canadian boots on the ground who identified as women who depend on PPE to keep them safe at work.

Our survey went live in early January, 2022, to widespread groups tracked with distinct survey links for strategic analysis. What a GREAT way to start the year!

I am endlessly thankful for the eager participation of my network including:

The responses have been pouring in from across Canada, and while we quickly surpassed the minimum sample size of 1,000 responses, the more we get the clearer the story will be.

CALL TO ACTION: as the survey hasn't yet been closed down, there is still a chance to respond to the survey if you identify as a woman who relies on PPE for safety on the job: here is your last chance survey link.

The final report (literary review and survey results) is anticipated to be released this summer, 2022, and if my lived story is any indicator of what the evidence will reveal, this report will be the smoking gun that proves inclusive PPE standards are essential for solving the issue of fit and Women's PPE.

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Thank you for sharing your experience. I am student at Wilson School of Design and I am very curious to lear more about the results from the survey. Do you know if the report has been published? Thank you for advocating for this cause. - Nilvia -

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