Flame-resistant (FR) garments traditionally are designed to fit male or unisex proportions. Unfortunately, garments that fit the demands of the job from a body shape and comfort standpoint are not always readily available for women.
Yet, with women making up a growing proportion of the workforce (a 53 percent increase over the past 50 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), it's important to ensure women also are outfitted safely and comfortably in the workplace. Keep the following in mind when choosing FR garments for your company.
1. Proper Garment Fit Without Modification
When provided with larger male or unisex garments, it may be tempting for some women to roll up their sleeves for a better fit. However, this is not an option with FR apparel because of the additional risks posed with personal modifications. These modifications can increase the likelihood of an accident in the workplace. For example, oversized clothing can get caught in machinery or cause workers to trip and fall.
These additional risks potentially can be avoided by selecting FR garments that are designed to accommodate different body types. A range of size options – from extra small to plus size – should be available and garments should be tried on to ensure there's a fit for all employees.
- Shirtsleeves should be short enough that they do not need be rolled or cuffed.
- Shirttails should be long enough that they can be tucked in, but short enough on the body to eliminate bunching when tucked into pants. Shirts with adjustable cuffs keep shirtsleeves from riding up, which is helpful with varying wrist sizes.
- Coveralls should be fitted for hip and waist size so that excess fabric does not get caught on equipment handles or affect mobility. In addition to the sleeve and pant length, the body of coverall garments also should fit the wearer.
2. Safety and Comfort Go Hand-in-Hand
An uncomfortable worker may have discomfort on their mind rather than the job at hand. And, a misfit uniform could hinder certain tasks on the job, such as bending, lifting or moving fluidly.
Garment fit goes beyond just size and cut; temperature also should be a key consideration to avoid issues like heat stress. In terms of comfort, a recent study by Bainbridge Strategy Consulting found FR garment wearers consider how lightweight and breathable FR clothing is as two of the most important aspects.
When selecting FR garments for women, consider the following:
- Examine the fabric quality and traits of the FR garment to ensure it is engineered for moisture-wicking and breathability. This is important for all seasons.
- Consider a garment where the FR technology is inherent (woven into the fabric). This eliminates any heavy FR coatings that could make the garment uncomfortable or stiff.
- Provide specific instructions as to what is acceptable on-site for extreme temperatures. Hot conditions should not permit rolled-up sleeves. Cold temperatures should not introduce non-FR hoodies or other flammable street wear.
3. Reaching Equilibrium in FR Wear
Today's FR garment programs must include options for women that align with the garments selected for men to maintain uniformity. When sourcing FR garments, be sure to select a manufacturer that offers the same fabric and features in both men and women's garments.
Women's garments may differ from men's in the sizing, cut and small details like button dimensions, but ensuring that logos, colors and styles remain consistent on all garments creates brand uniformity in the workplace.
A women's FR program is about equipping female employees with tools to help improve performance, comfort and safety on the job. Employees should feel comfortable, functional and safe from head-to-toe.
Sherryl Stoner started her career in FR garments in 1996 with a uniform rental company. During her time there, Stone worked in customer service inside sales, outside sales and outside sales specializing in fitting new customers in garment programs. Stoner has been with TECGEN brand for two years and currently serves as the customer service manager for inside sales and quality assurance.