Calls are being made for the North Sea to address unfair PPE standards for women working offshore.
Specialist provider Red Wing said the female offshore workforce is being given oversized personal protective equipment (PPE) designed for men, leaving them exposed to the risk of slips, trips and falls, sleeves getting snagged in machinery, and the added danger associated with flash fires – sudden, intense fires caused by the ignition of flammable substances in the air.
The call follows a survey by the AXIS Network, in partnership with Step Change in Safety, which found that 62% of women said their coveralls didn’t fit effectively, while 51% said their outerwear / jacket wasn’t suitably sized.
The same survey found that 8% of women have been bumped from an offshore flight due to being unable to find a safely fitting survival suit.
According to the most recent OGUK Workforce Insight Report, women made up 3.4% of the offshore workforce in 2020.
Red Wing Shoes senior HR Dez Young said: “Women not having the right PPE is something that has been accepted for too long, and the solution is out there. Over 70% of our customers feature women’s-fit PPE in their safety programmes, which shows that availability and price isn’t the issue. However, the kit is still not reaching those who need it.
“It’s not just about comfort or looks, it’s about safety, and we have a duty as an industry to keep everybody as safe as possible.”
As well as safety, appropriately-sized PPE has a major impact on comfort for the female workforce.
Senior product line merchant Amy Kraft said: “Something as simple as going to the toilet is made incredibly difficult for women due to the PPE they are issued with. That’s not right.”
To help drive compliance, Red Wing has produced a Right Fit Toolkit, which includes a visual sizing guide and correct fit instructional video for offshore companies to ensure workers get the right kit.
Inclusive PPE has been a key ask of a wider campaign by Step Change in Safety and the AXIS Network to drive more inclusive offshore working practices, while Energy Voice hosted a specific event on the matter earlier this year.
The recent ‘The Right Fit’ event was held in collaboration with Wood, the OGUK Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, AXIS Network, Harbour Energy, Step Change in Safety, East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), and the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH).
One solution employed by Red Wing is to provide fit kits to customers, giving them the option to try a range of sizes ahead of their trip. Red Wing Aberdeen is also offering free fit services from its base in Altens Industrial Estate. Onsite tailoring services can help improve comfort, while driving customers towards standard garments helps remove the cost associated with minimum order quantities, which is often perceived as a barrier to purchase.
Ms Kraft added: “Women just want to be treated fairly and have their safety concerns listened to, something that has been backed up by our research. We regularly ask women what they need and want from PPE, and the answer is simple – equality, whether that is in something as straightforward like the colour of their kit, or PPE that’s in the same style as their male counterparts.”