Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Slips trips and falls account for no less than 60,000 workplace injuries per year in Canada - 15% of all time-loss injuries accepted by workers’ compensation boards or commissions across the country. I started writing this blog post the moment I read that stat from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, found in this article.
As a woman who's worked on many industrial sites as the consulting field engineer, I am very familiar with health and safety tailgate meetings - the ones that start at the crack of dawn and go over the job's goals for the day as well as every conceivable associated health and safety risk the team can come up with (JSA = Job Safety Analysis).
Unlike some, I am a huge fan of these meetings and the mantra-like repetition of the daily job hazards - constant gardening is the only way to stay mindful and diligent of your job, and of your surroundings.
Anyways, I digress... there's a point in every tailgate meeting when you discuss the hazards you might come across over the course of the day, and hands shoot up to claim the low hanging fruit:
"Slips Trips or Falls!"
...and the list goes on.
Out of all the potential risks the team saw and could easily think of, it bothered me that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was rarely mentioned, because I found it affected me every day.
Loose or untied shoes were occasionally identified as potential hazards, but not gloves too big to work in, or hard hats that fall off of the head as soon as you bend over, even on the tightest setting. OR loose fitting, long-legged coveralls, with a crotch hanging down so low you can't bend your knee to climb a stair let alone a ladder, and with a shoulder span so wide that you can't reach your arms over head for long without the seam bearing down annoyingly or even painfully on your mid-delts.
This means that we weren't discussing a huge potential hazard for women on site who are stuck wearing coveralls designed for men's hip-to-height and shoulder span-to-height body proportions.
As an example: the tradeswoman seen below has to pull her sleeve up every time she works over head (which for electricians and welders can be over 75% of their day) to make the shoulder seam of her coveralls sit properly. If not, she will feel the entire weight of the coverall and her tool belt resting on the shoulder seam, which is cutting across her mid-shoulder, or even her biceps, restricting her arm motion. This seam slides off her shoulder every few minutes and must be adjusted for full mobility, adding to her cognitive load.
NOTE: these male-bodied coveralls are the closest fit for her body. They are her actual coveralls that she works in on a daily basis.
We need to start speaking up about how wearing PPE designed to fit men's body proportions is leaving a lot of women open to risks that aren't being openly identified on site. If you see something like this, or are experiencing something like this, speak up!