Women account for 75% of the medical workforce in the UK. Yet, they are not properly protected by their PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), mainly designed for male practitioners. As reported in the media this week, the British Medical Association raised concerns about women being forced to wear ill-fitting equipment.
Most PPE considers male populations’ sizes and characteristics from certain countries in Europe and the United States. As a result, women, and also men, experience problems finding suitable and comfortable PPE, by not conforming to this standard. For instance, the design of RPEs (Respiratory Protective Equipment) based on ‘standard’ US male faces will not suit a large proportion of men from ethnic minorities, and/or with facial hair – as reported in the guidance for workplace representative and proper fit and safety.
Examples of ill fitted PPE are present not only in medical settings but in other sectors like engineering, transport, local government environmental services and police body armour. The current crisis only highlights negligence in designing and supplying appropriate PPE to a predominantly female field, as 9 out of 10 nurses in the UK are female.