Family-owned Teesside-based Caswells Group which employs over 100 people has launched a campaign to encourage employers to provide PPE specifically designed for female staff, rather than taking the traditional approach of ‘just moving a size down’ in men’s ranges.

Founded in 1972, Caswells Group has spent 50 years supplying businesses across the country with PPE, janitorial, safety and hose/hydraulic supplies, and has long been aware of the limitations caused by women wearing male PPE such as sleeves being too long, the trouser crotch hanging down making climbing and moving difficult, and no accommodation for chest and waist differences.

Peter McLean, business development manager said: “Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is, rightly, high on the agenda for businesses and this should apply to the likes of safety workwear, too. We work with suppliers who manufacture PPE which is designed with the female form in mind, meaning that our customers can provide a more tailored workwear offering to keep staff comfortable, safe and able to work at their best.

“We’re reaching out to our customers to encourage them to consider these ranges as well as actively promoting them via our marketing channels, to help raise awareness and highlight the importance of ensuring that EDI is addressed in an area which could easily be overlooked; comfort and practicality shouldn’t be limited by gender.”

Research conducted in 2022* shows that women make up 16.5 per cent of all UK engineers, and females represent 23 per cent of the construction and utilities workforce, but there is a target in place to grow these figures to at least 30 per cent by 2030.

Lynsey Duthie, HSEQ Advisor at Altrad said: “PPE for women has always been an issue, something I have noticed perhaps more than most as I am very petite. I’ve had to cut and stitch it in the past in my own time to make it fit, I’ve had to apply duct tape to my wrists to prevent snagging risks and mentally, it’s exhausting moving around site while constantly pulling up and readjusting your workwear and trying to get your day’s tasks done.

“I’m new to Altrad who immediately understood the issues I faced and recommended Caswells, putting me in touch with Peter. From start to finish, the entire process was so professional. For the first time, I was asked about my measurements so that clothing that would actually fit could be sourced – Peter went out of his way to help me and even delivered directly while he was in the area, following up to check that everything was right afterwards too

“We need more companies to be forward thinking like this, listening to the people who are ‘boots on the ground’ so that we can ensure people of any gender have access to what they need.”

Caswells’ own workforce is more diverse than industry standard, with a 66/34 split of male to female staff, and the sales office is headed up by recently promoted Jessica Hodgson.

Caswells supports many local charities including Butterwick Hospice and The Moses Project, and made numerous donations of PPE and sanitising products to causes and local hospitals during the Covid19 pandemic. It is also the UK distributor for Pal International food hygiene workwear.