Call for Gender-Inclusive PPE Design in the UK Parliament

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work) Mims Davies MP

During a recent adjournment debate in the House of Commons, Labour MP Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) called for a change in how Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is regulated. Ms. Hardy highlighted the lack of specific mention of women in current PPE regulations, creating a situation where much of the available equipment is designed for the male anatomy.

The “Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Protected Characteristics) Bill”

To address this issue, Ms. Hardy introduced the “Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Protected Characteristics) Bill.” This bill would require employers to ensure that PPE provided to workers considers protected characteristics, guaranteeing a suitable fit for all wearers.

Consequences of Ill-fitting PPE

Ms. Hardy emphasized the real-world consequences of this omission. She pointed out that ill-fitting PPE designed for men can lead to a range of health and safety concerns for women, including:

  • Increased risk of slips, trips, and falls
  • Higher risk of entanglement in machinery
  • Limited range of motion
  • Reduced dexterity due to ill-fitting gloves
  • Impaired vision from poorly fitting safety glasses

Statistics and Evidence

Ms. Hardy cited research indicating that 42% of women have experienced problems related to ill-fitting PPE, impacting their careers and potentially causing long-term health issues.

Government Response

Work and Pensions Minister Mims Davies expressed the government’s support for Ms. Hardy’s position. Minister Davies acknowledged the importance of “inclusive” PPE that caters to individual needs.

The Minister reiterated that employers are responsible for providing suitable PPE to their workers and that employees should be involved in the selection process to ensure a comfortable and safe fit.

While acknowledging the potential dangers of ill-fitting PPE, Ms. Davies emphasized the existing requirement for employer consultation and proper equipment selection.

The Debate Continues

Ms. Hardy argued that the current regulations are not enough. She stressed the need to move beyond “best practice” recommendations and establish well-fitting, gender-inclusive PPE as the minimum standard.

The debate around Ms. Hardy’s bill highlights the ongoing need for regulations that ensure the safety and well-being of all workers, regardless of gender.