Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations and its safety practices are constantly evolving. A current focus for safety leaders is ensuring that personal protective equipment (PPE) is properly fitting, to minimize the risk of workplace accidents on the job while also promoting belonging and inclusion.
Abby Ferri, chief risk officer at Insurate, has dedicated her career to educating the construction industry on how providing inclusive PPE can be a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. In partnership with Abby, Procore has launched “Suiting Up For Safety: A Guide to Meeting the PPE Needs of a Diverse Workforce,” the latest free and on-demand Procore Safety Qualified course.
To kick off Construction Safety Week and the launch of the new course, Procore sat down with Abby to learn more about her background, opportunities for the construction industry to implement innovative PPE strategies and what to expect from the curriculum. Read Abby’s responses below:
Why are you so passionate about PPE?
PPE is the most visual part of the construction site experience. Everyone in the industry, whether in the trades, project management or safety has strong feelings about their gear—you either love it or you hate it!
What has been one of the biggest catalysts for change in PPE production and procurement?
Women in the trades have had issues with ill-fitting PPE since the 1999 OSHA Health and Safety of Women in Construction (HASWIC) report. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased production of first aid and barrier style PPE, N95 masks and other respiratory protection, women in healthcare have also been speaking out about sizing issues. The PPE sizing concerns from the past still persist today and are continuing to pile up.
How are PPE and inclusivity related?
If an employer asks their new employee for their PPE sizing and preference on day one, they’re demonstrating the value of their employee’s input. On the flip side, if a new employee is handed a “one size fits all” PPE with no other option, they may feel like they’re being treated as just a number. Studies have shown that when organizations build their PPE purchasing policy around the end user, it’s more likely to match the job scenario, be properly worn and maintained.
I wrote an article for the Voluntary Protection Program Participants’ Association (VPPA) about how PPE fit impacts the psychosocial safety of all workers. Psychosocial safety means going beyond the psychological safety of individuals to take into account the societal impacts various populations face.
By definition, such an environment is one where workers know they can bring up concerns without fear of retribution. In many workplaces, tradeswomen are not in a psychologically safe environment because they fear retaliation for bringing up PPE concerns.
How do you see employers shifting to meet these needs?
The next generation of trades professionals is already educated on psychological safety and proper PPE fit and will expect their future employers to meet their needs. With more distributor education, improved offerings from manufacturers, input from end users and safety professionals, employers will see that price is no longer the only factor when making PPE purchasing decisions.
Why is it critical to introduce this new Procore Safety Qualified Course now?
Educating end users, safety professionals, supervisors, procurement professionals, PPE manufacturers and distributors is key because many still don’t see the problem or need for properly fitted PPE for women and other underrepresented communities on the jobsite. Even though diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) conversations have been a focus recently, these problems have been around for decades.
This Procore Safety Qualified course lays a foundation for understanding the past, present and future of PPE on the jobsite. While many in the industry are focused on their projects, this is an opportunity to look at what the future of the construction force looks like and how to get ahead of their needs. There’s demographic and sizing data that may surprise you, or insights shared that may inspire you to take action as a safety leader at your company.
What’s next in PPE?
With innovation happening in all corners of a jobsite, PPE will continue to evolve as well. With developments in technology, gear, maintenance, safety and quality, it’s important to always keep the individual workers involved. If the PPE doesn’t work for the workers, it shouldn’t be at the site.
Sign up for “Suiting Up For Safety: A Guide to Meeting the PPE Needs of a Diverse Workforce” here.
Want to get to know Abby and learn more about this topic? Watch the latest in Procore’s Foundations for Progress series, “The Connection Between Jobsite Safety, Psychological Safety and DEIB” and watch our expert interview below.