The Challenges of PPE as a Female Firefighter


Global PPE Footwear Manufacturer, HAIX, sits down with two Firefighters to discuss the challenges of finding good footwear

In a majority male industry, the fit and form of PPE for women often falls under the radar, with other factors influencing the decision making on PPE procurement. This can be detrimental however, not only on in comfortability but also in ability to carry out the work safely. HAIX speaks to Amy Lynex and Caillin Tyler about their experiences of how poorly fitting footwear can affect their work.

Amy Lynex is a Fire Crew Manager based in Gloucester and has been firefighting for six years. Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service has the highest number of females in any force across the UK, but despite this, finding appropriate PPE, especially footwear and gloves, is still a struggle for many women in the service. “As a public entity, fire services have to prioritise equipment choice based on cost due to budget constraints and I’ve found that this can lead to footwear not fitting well and being of limited quality. For example, there have been instances where footwear is not available in smaller sizes suitable for females. When you are wearing an ill-fitting boot, you can feel your foot slipping around and it increases the risk of slips, trips and falls as well as causing rubbing and blisters and feeling generally very uncomfortable.”

Caillin Tyler is a Firefighter and has been in the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service for over three years experiencing similar challenges. “Poorly fitting boots greatly increases our chance of injury. A knock-on effect of this is that our fitness is affected, as we may be made to go on rest or be unable to exercise, this impacts our ability to carry out our work effectively. The increased incidents of wildfires are also causing new problems, with foot comfort affected by the heat control of our boots. Ideally, we’d have different boots specifically for wildfires as deployment here can last for up to six to eight hours in peak summertime conditions. This means more time on our feet and more walking than normal service.”

A one-size-fits-all all approach isn’t suitable when sourcing PPE, as it doesn’t accommodate the wide range of diverse and unique requirements needed for foot sizes and shapes. Speed and mobility are essential as is the weight, the quality of materials and craftsmanship.

Amy and Caillin both competed in the British Firefighter Challenge, with Amy and the relay team being able to wear HAIX boots: “The Fire Eagle 2.0 is lighter than other boots I’ve worn. The unique lacing system means that the bottom part becomes tight for a suitable fit and the top part remains looser which helps with comfort, leaving for a more natural movement.”

Caillin agrees that “nothing compares to HAIX, optimum ankle support, super lightweight and ultimate ease of movement. They’re also quick to wear-in. Often the problems with a boot’s fit aren’t to do with gender, it’s just that the boot isn’t great. Boots that tend to fit the best aren’t ones that are specifically catered towards women’s sizing, the most important aspect is the thought and investment that’s put into how the boots are designed to adapt to fit individual feet.”

“Women’s-fit PPE is often more expensive, possibly due to increased tailoring around the female body. Being a woman in the industry can be tough, women are often more scrutinised and have to work a lot harder in regard to fitness. Women are also not often consulted during the development of PPE, leading to poor quality and an inappropriate fit.”

Although the industry is changing, Amy thinks that there are still certain challenges that come with being a female firefighter outside of PPE. “I’ve had friends who have had negative experiences based on their gender. In some cases, there is still an old-school mentality when you join the service, you need several years to prove yourself. When I got my position as crew manager, I felt like I really needed to prove myself, but times are changing. When I visit the BFC, there are more and more female competitors than a few years ago and people are moving out of the old thought process, embracing those with different skill sets and unique life experiences.”

HAIX has invested in the design and manufacture of its products, with a focus on ensuring the highest comfort and protection levels for all fire fighters. The Fire Eagle 2.0 starts in a UK size 3 and features an updated design with the new, innovative quick-fit fastener system. The RapidFit system is the quickest way to pull a boot on and fits the individual foot in just one movement, critical when a call comes in and every second counts.

To read more exclusive articles and latest news, see our last issue here.

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International Fire Buyer
Fire Buyer

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Rebecca Spayne Managing Editor, International Fire Buyer
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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