Transport for London (TfL) has unveiled its first range of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed specifically for women.
The range was created during a six-week trial and will include high-visibility jackets, trousers, gloves and adjustable safety goggles which will be better suited to women. The new range will be available to women working in TfL’s operational business straight away and for women carrying out maintenance activities before the end of the year.
Melanie Ogden, Northern Line Extension tunnels and shafts project manager, said: “I’ve been in construction now for almost five years and I’ve always struggled to find PPE that fits. It is quite frustrating because you feel under confident, you feel like you’re not completely comfortable, you are a bit distracted sometimes.
“But also, there have been times when I’ve had such a large jacket that I’ve snagged it on something. It’s not a health and safety issue, but it’s not something you want to be concerned with when you’re on a construction site and you have to have your wits about you.”
Jill Collis, director health, safety and environment TfL, said the organisation decided to conduct the trial after the subject of ill-fitting equipment was raised in its Stations and Crossrail Equality and Diversity group.
“When you think about it, it is quite hard to believe that we’re in the year 2015 and there was not a suitable readily available range of PPE for women,” she said. “There are enough challenges for women coming into the industry and ill-fitting clothing shouldn’t be one of them. It was something that was relatively straightforward to fix and so we fixed it.”
The initiative was championed by Miles Ashley, programme director of Crossrail and Stations at London Underground, who said, “It’s clear that universally-sized PPE isn’t fit for purpose for our female staff, and we’re keen to get it right. London will need more engineers by the end of the decade to build the critical infrastructure we need, so it’s important that we take every step we can to make construction a more welcoming environment for all.”
TfL said a range of safety boots that is better suited to women is also in development and will be available in the New Year, while a new fitting service will ensure female staff has better access to better-fitted PPE.
Explaining the delay in the PPE footwear provision, Collis said: “Women’s PPE footwear provision is very limited, and the options out there are narrow. We trialled some boots but they weren’t quite the right fit, and weren’t exactly what our staff were after – as an aside, the detailing on the shoes was also pink, if you can imagine.
“So we’ve decided to create our own bespoke range instead. As part of this, we are producing a mould for women’s feet, which means the footwear timescales are later than those of the rest of our women’s PPE range.”