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BCCSA 2022

In November of 2022, Jodi Huettner was featured as a keynote speaker at the annual British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance Forum held at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel in Vancouver.

The BC Construction Safety Alliance operates as a non-profit organization, offering services to more than 52,000 construction companies employing over 220,000 workers. The organization’s funding primarily comes from the construction sector, as well as selected industry contributors by way of a portion of their annual WorkSafeBC assessment.

In her session, Jodi shared the origin story of her company Helga Wear, and what catalyzed her into becoming an advocate for workplace inclusivity through proper-fitting PPE.

“In order for me just to take a quick leak, I had to go someplace private - breaking line-of-site with my colleagues in order to remove my safety clothing, which exposed me to rain and to wildlife hazards like bears and cougars. That wasn’t safe.” Jodi, on one of the many downfalls of wearing PPE not suited to her anatomy, in a fast-paced and competitive remote field work position.

Jodi recalled how her female co-workers would tell her to simply avoid drinking liquids completely, or to postpone drinking until it was absolutely necessary, and to delay toileting as long as possible, just to sidestep the issue.

Jodi also touched on the topic of workplace bullying and harassment, as she experienced it firsthand during the early stages of her business. She prototyped her own bib rain overalls to fit and to let her take a quick leak without undressing, and while wearing them on a job “There were jokes. People were standing around waiting to see if I would try to use it. In one case a guy even reached for my flap as if to pull it, all for a laugh” Jodi said.

As the session went on, Jodi went into detail about how she partnered with Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards Ltd. to develop a safety coverall using her inseam access design for quick toileting. She also drew from elements of engineering design by using women’s body dimensions, womenswear grading rules, and field testing on the tradeswomen of Seaspan to perfect the coverall.

“Why are we insisting women wear PPE that is not designed for their bodies, and ignoring the hazards created by poor fit?” was Jodi’s response to the existing regulations governing our trades industries in BC.

Further in her session, Jodi pointed out the gender-blind problematic language she found in our standards and the gaps between our OHS Regulations and what’s actually happening in the field. Jodi brought this to the attention of women’s advocacy groups and to two major unions, garnering support at each step, and assembling a team of advocates which went on to present to the BC Minister of Labour, Hon. Harry Bains, and to the President of WorkSafeBC.

She continues to lead the conversation around building a framework for proper-fit PPE, one that acknowledges the use of gendered statistics and gender-based standards so that women are included right from design.

Jodi remains determined to bring about positive change and envisions to provide more proper-fit PPE options for women.


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