Industries’ requirements for safety footwear and other Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) have historically been male dominated, but this trend is changing rapidly. More and more women are entering the workforce, including areas of ‘hard labour’ like mining, manufacturing and construction. This means that more women require PPE, and herein lies the challenge. Procurement officers tend to simply purchase smaller sizes of men’s safety wear to cater to their female workforce, but a woman’s body is not smaller than a man’s, it has a totally different anatomy. When it comes to footwear especially, the wrong fit can be detrimental. Procurement officers need to look at procuring safety equipment and footwear designed specifically for women to ensure their dignity, comfort, health and wellbeing. The cost of purchasing male or unisex safety wear for women can be significantly higher in the long term.
Footwear impacts health and safety
Ill-fitting footwear can cause a range of health problems, including foot pain and foot disorders. According to research, “footwear cannot fulfil its intended purpose if it does not fit the foot correctly”.
What often happens is that women’s feet oscillate in badly fitted shoes, which may have long-term health implications and can cause calf injuries, muscle strain and back problems. In addition, their feet could slip out of the boots, leaving them vulnerable to accidental injury.
Outside of just the personal wellbeing, there are also economic implications from reduced productivity and increased sick leave, medical claims and workmen’s compensation; all of which negatively affect the bottom line.
Cosmetic changes are not enough
When it comes to female-specific safety footwear, mere cosmetic changes are not enough. This fails to address the underlying problems that cause discomfort and can affect the female employee’s wellbeing; this is especially concerning given the fact that there are locally produced, women-specific options available.
Aside from the safety and economic aspects of ill-fitting safety wear, women’s dignity is also negatively impacted, especially where their daily workwear is concerned. If we are to make women feel comfortable and truly included in the workforce, procurement needs to focus on obtaining safe, effective and specific safety wear for their female workforce.
Sisi Safety Wear has invested in research to understanding the specific needs of women in safety within the different sectors. We have provided a solution to meet various requirements within safety footwear, workwear or fall arrests. There is a reason men and women shop for gender specific clothing in general; so with locally produced, women specific safety wear readily available, are you making the right choices for your female workforce?
By Predahni Naidoo, Brand Manager at Sisi Work Safety