Premium PPE solutions provider Red Wing is leading the call for the North Sea offshore industry to come together to close the gender PPE gap and improve the safety of women’s kits.

The provider said female workers were being put at risk by being given men’s PPEs, with many having to roll-up coverall legs and sleeves, as well as not having appropriately fitting footwear. With potential hazards caused by ill-fitting PPEs including sleeves getting snagged in machinery, long trouser legs resulting in slips, trips and falls — as well as fraying and damage to hems — the need for change is about more than aesthetics. There is also a danger associated with flash fires if clothing doesn’t fit properly.

The call comes after a survey by the AXIS Network, in partnership with Step Change in Safety, found 62% of women said their coveralls didn’t fit effectively, while 51% said their outerwear/jackets are not suitably sized.

“Women not having the right PPE is something that has been accepted for too long, and the solution is out there,” Dez Young, senior HR of Red Wing Shoes, said in a prepared statement. “Over 70% of our customers feature women’s-fit PPE in their safety programs, which shows that availability and price isn’t the issue. However, the kit is still not reaching those who need it.”

Research shows that women working offshore and the purchasing teams buying products on their behalf, don’t fully understand why women’s PPEs are so important. They also aren’t aware of the tools they need to find the right fitting coverall for them. “It’s not just about comfort or looks, it’s about safety,” said Young, “and we have a duty as an industry to keep everybody as safe as possible.”

To drive compliance, the international organization, which has been making work boots specifically for women since 1926, has produced a Right Fit Toolkit, complete with visual sizing guide and correct fit instructional video for offshore companies to ensure workers get the right kit.

Young added: “There is a need to educate procurement departments to enable them to offer the right kit to the right people. We want women to know the PPE they need is available, but they shouldn’t have to wait to be offered it. That’s why we have created the Right Fit Toolkit — to help make the process of getting the correct PPE easier.”

The issue was highlighted at The Right Fit event, which 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), in an attempt to tackle the challenges in accessing work wear and making offshore PPEs more inclusive.

With offshore PPE regulations making clear reference to appropriate education, access, fit and compliance, the company is in a unique position as both a manufacturer and a distributor of multiple brands of PPEs to provide everyone — male or female — with effective head to toe PPEs.

As such, Red Wing has implemented a four-point supply matrix based on availability, quality, price and compliance. Red Wing hubs in Dubai, Stavanger and Houston, as well as Aberdeen, commit to hold ladies workwear solutions ensuring the company provides quality kit across its global locations.

Onsite tailoring services also help the wearer get that extra comfort level, while driving customers towards standard garments helps remove the cost associated with minimum order quantities, which is often perceived as a barrier to purchase.

“Women just want to be treated fairly and have their safety concerns listened to, something that has been backed up by our research,” Amy Kraft, senior product line merchant, Red Wing Shoes, said “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 color of their kit, or PPE that’s in the same style as their male counterparts."

In addition to on demand fit-tools, fit kits can also be provided to customers, giving them the option to try a range of sizes ahead of their trip. As well as staff training at customer sites both on and offshore, Red Wing Aberdeen is also offering free fit services from its base in Altens Industrial Estate.