Advancing inclusivity and innovation in PPE

For Cristina Barlow at Mark's Commercial 'it's about ensuring that every worker, regardless of gender, has access to the right tools for the job'

Advancing inclusivity and innovation in PPE

When it comes to workplace safety, the journey towards inclusivity and innovation is led by individuals like Cristina Barlow, CPSC. As a strategic partnership specialist at Mark’s Commercial/L'Equipeur Commcercial, a division of Mark's and part of the Canadian Tire group of companies, Barlow's commitment to advancing safety standards is not just professional; it's personal.

Barlow will be speaking at the upcoming Women in Safety Summit in Calgary, as part of a panel titled ‘Navigating Change- Discover the future of safety.’ "As health and safety professionals, we have a duty to stay ahead of the curve,” says Barlow. “By embracing new technologies and practices, we can proactively address safety challenges and protect our workers."

Intersection of technology and inclusivity

Barlow will delve into the heart of the safety industry, where technological advancements intersect with the need for inclusivity. "For me, it's about ensuring that every worker, regardless of gender, has access to the right tools for the job," Barlow affirms. "It's not just about compliance; it's about creating environments where everyone can thrive."

Reflecting on the role of innovation, Barlow highlights recent breakthroughs in personal protective equipment (PPE). "We've come a long way from one-size-fits-all safety gear," she notes. "Today, we have CSA-approved footwear tailored to specific job descriptions and anti-slip technology that's been rigorously tested for safety."

But Barlow acknowledges that while technological progress is happening quickly, the path to inclusive PPE is slower for most industries. "Historically, women in male-dominated industries have faced barriers in accessing suitable PPE," she says. "The 'shrink it and pink' mentality simply doesn't cut it. We need gear that's not just resized but designed with women's needs in mind."

The scaling challenge

One of the challenges Barlow hopes industry can come together to tackle is creating women’s PPE at scale.

"The call to action I think for me would be to ask all of the construction companies, is it really necessary to have 17 different shades of grey women's pants? And the answer is no. If we, as manufacturers could agree on one shade of gray, one shade of blue, one shade of black, that would allow us to produce those trousers at economies of scale pricing and keep them in stock so that they are as easily accessible as men's."

Despite these challenges, Barlow remains optimistic about the future of workplace safety. "It's heartening to see a shift towards inclusivity," she observes. "But there's still work to be done. We need to ensure that inclusive practices are the norm, not the exception."

As Barlow prepares to take the stage at the Women in Safety Summit, she hopes her message resonates with professionals across the industry. In her vision, innovation and inclusivity are not just buzzwords but guiding principles for a safer tomorrow.