Issue date
28 Apr 2017

Less than one in three women are given protective clothing specifically designed for women, according to a report published by the TUC today (Friday).

Despite a legal duty on bosses to provide the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their staff free of charge, only 3 in 10 women (29%) told a survey that the PPE they wear to keep them safe at work is specifically designed for women.

Women responding to the survey work in a range of jobs, including in the emergency services, retail and manufacturing, engineering and scientific research.

Many reported that ill-fitting PPE which isn’t designed to protect women workers gets in the way of them doing their job safely. For example, the wrong shoes or overalls can increase the chances of tripping, and safety harnesses, belts and body armour can rub against the skin if they do not accommodate breasts or hips.

The report is published today to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day, an international annual day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled and injured by their work.

The report also reveals:

  • More than half of women (57%) responding to the survey said that their PPE sometimes or significantly hampered their work – including 95% of women working in emergency services.
  • More than 2 in 5 (41%) women said that the protective trousers that were given to them were inappropriate.
  • More than 1 in 3 (35%) found their overalls unsuitable for carrying out their work duties.

The problems are particularly acute when women become pregnant. The survey showed half of women who had been pregnant had been forced to cut back on their normal duties or had to change their role in the run up to giving birth due to suitable PPE not being available or supplied to them.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “I’m shocked that so many women – even those working in frontline emergency services – do not have the right protective clothing to do their jobs safely.

“Bosses’ complacency risks serious injury. It shouldn’t be hard to ensure protective uniforms come in men’s and women’s sizes.

“Today on International Workers’ Memorial Day, we remember all those who have died at work – and pledge to redouble our efforts to make sure everyone is safe from illness and injury while they carry out their jobs.

“Trade unions have fought for protections from dangerous workplaces for as long as we have existed. I would urge anyone worried about health and safety at work to join a union.”


Notes to Editors:
- The report is available at

- The findings in the report are based on 2,655 responses to a TUC survey and 3086 responses to a Prospect/WES survey.
- The TUC is calling on employers to:

  • avoid suppliers who do not provide a range of sizes for men and women, and ensure that their suppliers have properly assessed the appropriateness of their equipment to women and men
  • work with trade bodies to pressure manufacturers and suppliers to provide a full range of PPE
  • make sure that they provide the same range of sizes for women as for men
  • ensure that women try on several sizes or types of PPE before it is issued to ensure it is best fit
  • let staff feedback on the suitability of PPE
  • work with safety committees and trade union health and safety representatives to ensure that the correct range of suitable PPE is provided.

Written case studies from the report:

  • “I’ve actually had physio due to the issues with my stab vest sadly. I took my stab vest in to show them and they were horrified and felt it was terrible for posture. I get sore hips where the belt and equipment rub, leaving red marks. I don’t have the joy of the vest being roomy, in fact, mine makes me feel incredibly squashed in the chest area even though it is shaped. They seem to be one size fits all in the chest which clearly isn’t the case!”
  • “Trousers are too fitted they are not ideal for sitting for long periods we have jobs where we sit for 4 hours in the seat with just a 5 min break. They dig in round the waist.”
  • “Apparently they don’t ‘do’ small hi-vis vests for my new employer, tried the medium and I can fit two of me in! Having to wear long sleeve jackets in all weathers now.”

- International Workers’ Memorial Day serves as a reminder to workers across the globe that many of them are at daily risk of accidents, injury and illness at work. The event is an international annual day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled and injured by their work. The theme this year is ‘good health and safety for all workers – whoever they are’. For more information about the TUC’s involvement in the day please visit
- All TUC press releases can be found at
- TUC Press Office on Twitter: @tucnews

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