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International Day of Women In Engineering 2023 : Exploring ‘Making Safety Seen’.

We are delighted to be a part of the International Women in Engineering Day 2023 campaign again this year, launching today, on the 23rd of June. INWED is a global campaign that brings together engineers and their supporters from around the world, to raise awareness of not only the opportunities and achievements of women engineers, but also the challenges.

We would like to take this opportunity to celebrate our female engineers as extremely high performs, praise the excellent work they do across the globe, and celebrate their efforts in shaping our world into a safer and more innovative place to be.

In light of the our commitment to this year’s theme, ‘Making Safety Seen’, we have caught up with some of our women from across the globe, to discuss their personal views on safety for women in our industry, how it effects their work and what we can do to make improvements…

Do you think the industry takes enough measure in assuring women’s safety?   

While we are fortunate to witness a time of change and progression in promoting diversity and inclusion, it still remains slow and insufficient, with a lot still to be done to ensure the safety and well-being of women in the engineering field. It is also important to note that safety is not just physical and that the industry must raises awareness regarding both the physical and psychological aspects.

Just as we strive to mitigate risks and create safe environments during offshore or onshore operations, we must extend the same commitment to office spaces, ensuring the provision of secure working environments for all individuals.

Paloma Medina, Naval Architect

I think that it is very much an ongoing process, and unfortunately, lessons are often learned after mistakes happen. Since the start of my career in 2018, I have definitely noticed a positive increase in safety measures for women, however it is often only after something new is implemented that I realise that it should have already been in place. There is now definitely a conscious awareness of women’s safety, onshore and offshore, and much more of an overall sense of equality.

Ashanti Storr, Assistant Surveyor

In broad terms, safety is of the highest priority within the industry, however regarding issues pertaining women’s harassment/health, this isn’t often discussed or raised with such high regard. The industry could also do more to ensure every woman feels safe and comfortable enough to raise/talk about these issues.

Bethany Stewart, Engineer

Often women still struggle to find the correct size PPE. Have you experienced an issue finding PPE that is your size?

While the industry has made progress in providing PPE that accommodates various sizes, there has been instances where this is not the case, which created significant risks. For instance, oversized gloves that are too big and don’t give you a good grip or a harness that doesn’t tight properly can really reduce the effectiveness of the equipment and create risk. It is crucial that the industry work to prioritise the availability of different sizes and ensure that employees are equipped with the appropriate protective equipment for the job.

Paloma Medina, Naval Architect

I have struggled to find gloves that fit my hands and comfortable shoes that are fit for purpose to fit my feet. This is largely due to the limited availability of smaller sized shoes, (especially half sizes). This means I end up wearing shoes that are much too big and they are much heavier than they should be. After 12-16 hours on my feet, this becomes a huge problem. In general, women have less choice and therefore end up compromising on comfort and quality.

Carmela Friedman, Naval Architect-Senior Consultant

Yes that has definitely been an issue for me in the past. I have found that often sizes range from S – XL for both genders, which is not practical at all. For example, when wearing an extra small, my expectation was that it would fit, but it did not. It was simply small in all of the wrong areas. This poor sizing has resulted in huge problems in the past, including poor mobility and trip hazards – which of course could be deadly.

Ashanti Storr, Assistant Surveyor

Although the regular unavailability of the correct PPE for female engineers is a common theme, the story seems to be different in the Australasia region…

In the Australian and New Zealand regions, our female engineers have not experienced any difficulty in finding suitable style and fitting PPE. Typically, in our region woman’s PPE clothing style and sizing is regularly available, as there are separate woman’s ranges to address both style & sizing.

Jim Morrison, Executive Vice President of Safety, Risk & Environment

What improvements can be made to ensure our engineers feel safe in the workplace?

At ABL, we pride ourselves as a diverse and inclusive company. We very much focus on ensuring all staff feel safe at work, regardless of their role and gender. Our QHSE team ensure our health and safety regulations are to the highest standard and our PPE is readily available for all.

It is our mission that all our employees have access to the best PPE, that both fit correctly and meet the required regulations. In regards to the industry as a whole, while progress has been made in recent years in providing PPE that fits women properly, there is still much to be done to ensure that women have access to appropriate and adequately designed PPE to protect them. As a result of this, we continue to actively vet our suppliers to ensure the needs of our female engineers are met.

Santosh George, Group QHSE Director

We realise that more must be done to ensure a safe environment in our work spaces, whether this is on-site, offshore, or in the office. Through our Diversity and Inclusion committee, we are conquering the challenge of gender equality, and actively working to ensure we not only raise awareness, but offer the correct support and measures if this is to ever become an issue.

Safety must be addressed in both a physical and emotional context. I’m pleased to say that there has been significantly more focus on women’s safety in the work place in recent years. Where I feel this industry falls short is the lack of safe forums, where women can discuss their emotional abuse which still arises from situations of gender discrimination. 

I feel that the industry could still do a great deal more to enable women in addressing conflict management, not only in the office, but in operational environments where they have no immediate exit such as onboard vessels and offshore platforms.

Anne Myers, Country Manager South Africa