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Mining Women’s Dress for Success Story

Posted: 18/06/2012 5:00:00 AM by AMMA Mining Oil and Gas Jobs
Filed under: Diversity, Mining, AWRA

One of the easy things about working in the mines or offshore is you don’t have to think about what to wear to work. Slap on your PPE (personal protection equipment), don a pair of steel cap boots and you’re good to go - unless you’re a woman. Then it can be a bit more difficult.

What’s the issue?

Fashion is not the issue. The big problem is most PPE has been designed for the bloke. Women on site willingly wear the prescribed work clothes but often find they don’t fit properly. Both the sleeves of shirts and the legs of pants tend to be too long for a normal sized woman. Safety regulations prohibit sleeves and trousers being rolled up but a sleeve extending beyond a worker’s hand is also a potential safety hazard. Pregnant women have no source of maternity clothing they can wear on a work site.

The Australian Standard for Occupational Protective Clothing states the general requirements for PPE:
  • Must be designed to facilitate its correct positioning on the user and should ensure that it remains in place for the foreseeable period of use taking into account ambient factors, together with the movement and postures that the wearer could adopt during the course of work or other activity.
  • Shall not be so loose and/or heavy so that it interferes with movement.
  • Have an appropriate range of sizes.
Women wearing PPE designed for men do not meet these requirements.

Engineering a better work wardrobe

Gemma Hamilton, an electrical engineer and WA national committee representative for Women in Engineering (WiE), decided to do something about it. A team from WiE put together a design scholarship for students at Challenger Institute of Technology in Fremantle. The result was a line of work clothes for women working in the resources industry that was both safe and comfortable.

The ‘Fit to Work’ project was supported by Engineers Australia and prototype designs were rolled out at the International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists last year. A major employer in the Australian resources industry is currently running a trial on the work clothes to assess their suitability in an operational environment.

Ms. Hamilton concedes women working in mining don’t want special treatment.

In this case it makes sense. Women need to be safe at work and that means wearing clothes that fit properly.”

What the Fit to Work project delivers

Fit to Work photo by James Elsby originally in Adelaide Now
The designs are 100% cotton and in accordance with the Australian standards. Hemlines have been shaped and lengthened or shortened so they avoid exposing skin with all range of movements.

The pants are relaxed fit with a shaped waistband that allows them to sit without gaping! Some of the waistbands also have adjustable tabs for those "fat" and "skinny" days. All come with a ‘D’ ring or tabs to clip gloves or keys on.

The pants also have a range of pockets that are deep enough to hold an assortment of goodies and still remain comfortable.

The shirt designs range from tab front style which provides a clean finish at the front eliminating that horrible gaping and straining of buttons that often occurs to full button fronts. It also has some back ventilation. The other shirts are tailored with added length so when you lift your arms the shirt doesn't pull out. They also have more appropriate length of sleeve and cuffs so they don't slip over the hands.

The maternity PPE is daywear with darts giving shape at the bust with extra width and length at the front and back it allows room to grow. The pants are high-waisted to cover the belly with a stretch cotton knit front that grows with your belly.

Increasing female participation

With industry initiatives like AWRA aiming to increase female participation in the Australian resource industry, sometimes the smallest changes can make a big difference. If you know of any other projects designed to make it easier for women to enter and stay in jobs in mining, energy or oil and gas, please let us know. We’d love to hear your stories and ideas.

What do you think of the Fit to Work project?

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