One Size Doesn't Fit All
Women are becoming a much larger part of the manufacturing industry. Are industry suppliers ready to outfit and protect this growing segment of the workforce?
- By Julieann Billings Riordan
- Nov 08, 2023
With more women entering the manufacturing workplace, its incumbent on our industry to adapt appropriately by providing more products designed specifically for women.
There has been a post-pandemic surge of women moving into the manufacturing workforce, as women now account for 30 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the United States. On top of that, there is an initiative being led by the Manufacturing Institute called “35 x 30” that is focused on growing those numbers to 35 percent by the year 2030.
In real numbers, since the end of the pandemic, females working in manufacturing now account for 3.77 million workers, an increase of 102,000 workers since pre-pandemic.
As an industry, it’s more important than ever to support this shift in the workplace with products made specifically for this growing segment of the workforce.
What this means, specifically for the PPE vision market, is the development of products that are lighter-weight, form-fitting, and designed to fit a woman’s face.
Key features that will help to provide a snug, contoured, and reliable fit that workers should expect in women’s specific PPE vision protection include a bi-material ultra-flexible temple and a non-slip adjustable nose bridge to help assure a custom fit. At the same time, advancements in lens technology that are found in larger men’s sizes should also be included in women’s offerings, including anti-fog and anti-scratch lens technology to ensure an overall safer experience.
Choosing the Right Protection
In choosing the right vision protection, women should consider the type of protection they need – are they moving from indoor to outdoor environments? Are they in an environment where particles are flying around? Are they working around heavy machinery or performing work under fluorescent lights all day? Each of these situations brings a different set of conditions into play that will alter the type of protection needed.
Here are some key features that women should look for when selecting PPE vision protection:
Curved Frame - The curve of the frame will define whether the model is more or less wraparound. Curved products will offer more protection as they will be closer to the face. If too small, highly curved products may be uncomfortable for the wearer. For prescription eyewear, less curved products can accommodate higher prescriptions.
Nose Bridge – One of the most essential components. The bridge guarantees the products sit at the right position on the wearer’s face. The nose bridge can be molded within the frame to be as ergonomic as possible or can be adjusted to fit most face shapes. Versions with memory foam further ensure a customized fit. Some styles come with non-slip temples that allow for the eyewear to maintain an optimum fit at all times. Available on most premium products, these temples are often designed with a pattern that maximizes grip.
Bi-Material Frames – Frames made with two different kinds of materials are usually engineered with one material dedicated to providing robustness, while the other material ensures more comfortable wear or improved support.
Flexible Temples - Correctly fitted temples ensure the product stays on the wearer’s head at all times and reduces pressure points on the temples and behind the ears. Some hinges can open on a wider angle to provide a better fit and reduce discomfort.
Pivoting and Adjustable Temples - Pivoting and adjustable temples provide a large range of fit with a single model. They provide optimal support and improved protection by sitting properly on both the ears and nose.
Hybrid Products – A more versatile product designed for someone who is required to interchange glasses and goggles. Removable temples ensure the product is as light as possible for extra comfort.
Frame Size – Many models are available in different sizes; make sure you pick the one that is most suited to your face size to ensure they provide optimal coverage. Choosing the right size will provide better support, without any pressure points, for more comfortable wear.
Foam and Strap Kits – An additional strap or foam might improve protection and support. These kits are available on a large selection of models and can, in some cases, alter the classification of the impact rating.
Vision protection is no longer a one-size-fits-all category, and there is a wide range of options for women getting into the category that didn’t exist, even as recently as pre-pandemic.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.