Unsuitable PPE for female seafarers


CHIRP was invited to comment upon ill-fitting PPE for female seafarers and initiated a survey to determine the extent of the issue.

What the reporter told us:

In an effort to encourage females to take up a career in the maritime sector, certain administrations have prepared a number of articles giving practical guidance. One such article related to female-friendly PPE which among other things points out that asking female seafarers to wear over-sized PPE isn’t safe, and that simply giving them a small man’s size doesn’t do the job. For example, goggles designed for the male face, which is typically larger and broader than a woman’s, would not fit a female face as closely, leaving gaps with greater potential for foreign bodies to enter and cause injury.

Further Dialogue:

The CHIRP Maritime staff were initially unaware that a problem existed. However, the question having been asked, CHIRP investigated further and initiated a very small-scale basic survey with the assistance of a female seafarer to promulgate our questions to other female seafarers.

The response was rapid and enthusiastic, and the results showed overwhelmingly that there appears to be an issue with women’s PPE and also with regard to fireman’s outfits and LSA equipment.

The original findings were written into an article which was posted on the CHIRP website. https://www.chirpmaritime.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/20191119-PPE-for-female-mariners-Fit-for-Purpose-1.pdf. It also appeared in our Annual Digest 2019.

There are manufacturers who supply female-specific personal protective equipment – all BS, EN, and ISO compliant as applicable (although they may lack company logos on helmets and boiler suits). Nevertheless, the correct equipment is available on the market. The challenge is to increase awareness in order that it will become readily available on board merchant vessels.

CHIRP Comment:

  • While there may be a limited requirement on any single commercial vessel there is clearly a requirement for all mariners to have appropriate personal protective equipment
  • It is not a gender issue – the regulations give a minimum requirement irrespective of gender
  • Regulations state that PPE must be suitable and must fit
  • Shipping companies have a duty of care
  • The ships safety committee should be consulted on PPE and should be the conduit to the company
  • There is a direct correlation between safety culture and the provision made by the company

Following on from the original article, Solent University contacted CHIRP to advise us about a new research programme that is being undertaken into the issue of PPE for seafarers – which encompasses all seafarers, male and female. Solent University has requested CHIRP’s assistance to promulgate the research programme and the associated questionnaire to the wider seafaring community and on completion of the research to further promulgate the findings to seafarers who may not normally be aware of or read academic research.

The following paragraphs highlight the reasons and need for the research and CHIRP would encourage as many readers as possible to participate.

The Seafarers’ Personal Protective Equipment project explores seafarers’ experiences of using personal protective equipment (PPE) on board. PPE is vital in reducing the risk of workers experiencing injuries, yet we know anecdotally and from our own experience that PPE at sea is not always fit for purpose. For some workers, boiler suits can be much too large, causing a safety hazard in itself, for others safety boots are ill fitting resulting in painful blisters and cuts. We know that when PPE is not comfortable or practical to wear, workers are less likely to use it. So, finding out about seafarers’ day-to-day experiences of using PPE is really important.

We need you to help by taking the Seafarers PPE questionnaire. Your individual results will contribute to important research, helping researchers at Solent University understand the issues seafarers are currently facing in regard to PPE. The more seafarers who complete the questionnaire, the more we can learn about the PPE provided to those working at sea today, and the difficulties seafarers are experiencing and how these could be addressed to improve working conditions for seafarers in the future.


Please get involved, go online, visit the Solent University website and complete the questionnaire.

The website is: https://www.solent.ac.uk/research-innovation-enterprise/rie-at-solent/projects-and- awards/seafarers-ppe-project.

Alternatively go straight to the questionnaire at: https://solent.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ppe   


Report Ends.