82% of health and safety officials agree female PPE unsuitable

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

A survey of 891 revealed that 40% of people in their organisation who require PPE are women. Credit: Getty/Portra
A survey of 891 revealed that 40% of people in their organisation who require PPE are women. Credit: Getty/Portra

Related tags health & safety

Woman’s personal protection equipment (PPE) is a growing area of recognition among health and safety representatives, as businesses agree more needs to be done to ensure its suitable.

While the majority of those surveyed in the latest RS Health & Safety report ‘strongly agree’ that PPE needs to be more inclusive, in terms of its size, fit and suitability for women workers, hardly any are factoring it into their sourcing.

The 2024 report was completed by 891 respondents working in health and safety roles in the UK and Ireland, from a variety of sectors including F&B manufacturing. More than half (53%) of participants were from large businesses with between 250 and 10,000 employees, with 29% working within medium-sized organisations (50-249 head count) and 18% from small businesses with 49 or fewer staff.

Two thirds of these respondents stated that up to 40% of people in their organisation who require PPE are women, yet just one percent cited it as important factor when acquiring kit.

It’s also worth noting that the respondents of the 2024 survey were mostly men (71%).

The top three challenges for buyers of PPE, according to survey respondents, were finding suppliers who have the right stock, services or solutions (31%); sourcing quality and trustworthy parts; services or solutions (28%); and keeping up to date with new products and technology (23%). These figures mirror 2023’s findings.

The report also highlighted that more than a third (37%) of respondents cite counterfeit or substandard PPE as a real issue in the industry.

Dr Karen McDonnell, occupational health and safety policy adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “The British Safety Industry Federation is very clear on standards for personal protective equipment. Getting PPE procurement right first time is fundamentally important, and businesses should take advantage of the available support and guidance from recognised suppliers. They must ensure that the PPE they are issuing has been correctly tested and certified to the appropriate standard. Failing to do so puts workers lives at risk.”

On the topic of women PPE, she added: “It seems there’s still a way to go on achieving awareness of the importance of PPE developed specifically for women.”

Many firms (30%) also expressed an interest in recycling options for PPE from their suppliers. Currently, just 41% manage this in-house.

Sustainability was found to be of growing interest in general, with 78% of survey respondents saying they would pay a premium for ‘sustainable products’.

Commenting on the results, RS Safety Solutions’ director, Ryan Plummer, said: “It was interesting to see that sustainability is growing in importance, with more buyers prepared to pay a premium for sustainable products, even in the face of challenging times.

“The biggest PPE procurement challenge this year emerged as finding suppliers who have the right stock, services or solutions, which was chosen by more respondents, at 31% versus 23% last year.”

In other news, data has revealed that the price gap between private label and national brands is narrowing - yet the former, still remains favourable.

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