Female workers are increasingly prevalent in South Africa's industrial settings due to the dismantling of traditional gender roles. Times have changed, but the workwear worn in these industries haven’t. Women are still expected to wear either male or unisex Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Women's bodies differ in size and shape from men's, often resulting in discomfort and even potential risks. Many businesses are unaware that ill-fitting PPE is affecting the productivity of their female employees.
For example - female feet tend to be narrower than those of men. Women's size five shoes therefore need to be shaped differently than men's size five shoes, in order to ensure a secure and comfortable fit. From toe to heel, a men's shoe may fit a woman's foot, but its width may be too wide. As a result, her foot may oscillate within the shoe. The oscillation puts strain on her ankle, which overtime will lead to strain on her knees and hips. The risk of slipping out of boots becomes a daily risk for women with narrow heels, counteracting the purpose of wearing safety shoes. As a result, their productive output will decrease.
The shape of a women’s body is different from a man’s. Despite this, there is still a trend of procuring men’s or unisex workwear (such as conti suits, or boilersuits) for women. A women’s hips are typically wider and her posterior more pronounced, therefor the pattern of the trousers needs to be cut differently to accommodate these differences.
An ill-fitting pair of trousers will sit under the belly button which can cause discomfort or expose the top half of her posterior if she bends. This often results in women wearing nylon tights under the trousers, which is not ideal in South African weather. The nylon material does not wick away moisture, resulting in moist skin and the breeding of bacteria and fungi.
Women’s back areas are usually smaller but their chest areas are larger than men’s. This poses two issues when women are given men’s jackets. It is either sourced to fit the waist, hips and arm length, resulting in tightness in the chest area, restricting flexibility, and exposing the midriff when raising the arms. If sourced for the chest area, the result is a baggy, uncomfortable fit. Furthermore, every women has a different shape.
Instead of focusing on the job at hand, one’s attention becomes diverted. Ill-fitting workwear lead to frustration, poor concentration and increased breaks which has a debilitating effect on productivity.
In order to increase productivity, PPE procurement needs to change to accommodate women entering fields that were once deemed the domain of men.
For expert advice on the best suitable options for your female employees, contact one of Basson Workwear’s trained sales representatives.