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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Oec 6'A


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




Safety Clothing
Women in Industry


United States
Government Printing Office
Washington : 1941

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C. - - - - - - - - Price 10 cents
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Letter of Transmittal

Washington, May 23, 1941.
MADAM: I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on
safety clothing for women workers, constituting the third in the
series of special bulletins for the employment of women in the
defense program.
The research and the writing of this report are the work of
Margaret T. Mettert of the Bureau's Research Division.
Respectfully submitted.
l\tlARY ANDERSON, Director.
Secretary of Labor.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Courtesy American Mutual Liability Insurance Co4

The well-dressed woman in industry is a safe worker.
Clothing suitable to the job helps to avoid accidents.
Consider your feet first.
Wear your goggles; you can' t replace an eye.
Wear a cap around moving machinery.
Work dress must suit the job to b e safe.
Hand coverings can prevent skin infection and other injury.
Jewelry has no place in the factory.
Jobs with special dangers r equire special kinds of work clothing.

The Well-Dressed Woman in Industry is a Safe Worker
Safety clothing is designed for its attractiveness as well as its
utility. It has become fashionable to dress and act so that accidents cannot happen. The girl who was afraid to carry a mirror
lest she bring bad luck by breaking it has become the girl who
knows that accidents have definite causes that can be avoided.

Clothing Suitable to the Job Helps to Avoid Accidents
Safety conventions have so far recognized the importance of
safe clothing that they have included on their programs "fashion
parades" ( see frontispiece) of clothes designed especially for
industrial women. Designers have in mind first safety, then
convenience, wearability, comfort, cleanliness~ and coolness.
Attractiveness is_given due consideration.
In selecting the material for uniforms it should be borne in
mind that lightly starched fabrics are said to be more resistant
to fire than are fabrics without starch, and that cellulose fabrics
are more inflammable than cotton.
Safety clothing of various types has saved many thousands of
workers from permanent crippling, disfigurement, or blindness,
and many more from time lost from work and weeks of pain and
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Consider Your Feet First


Much fatigue and nervousness can be laid to badly fitting
shoes. If you suffer from c~ronic fatigue or pain in your feet
or in the muscles of your legs, ask the plant physician or nurse to
advise you about the right kind of shoes to wear.
The correct shoe is long enough to place the
ball of the foot in the tread of the shoe. The
shoe allows for the natural spread of the toes, ~
and fits snugly around the heel and instep.
The heel is medium or low. The foot should always be measured with the standing weight placed on the measuring rule.
The width should be fitted as carefully as the length.
If deformities exist, exercise and mechanical devices will help.
High or run-down heels and thin or worn soles can be the
direct cause of a fall. Well-fitting shoes with low heels and
good soles· can help to maintain footing on wet or slippery floors.
Falls are a major cause of women's injuries in industry; and
they are especially serious, and result in much loss of time, among
older women. Important causes of falls are wet, slippery floors
and other evidences of poor factory housekeeping.
Some occupations require the wearing of safety shoes. Usually this is necessary if there is any danger of dropping heavy
material. They can be as comfortable to wear and as attractive
in appearance as an ordinary shoe. Such shoes with reinforced
vamps have saved the loss of many toes. Several nationally
known firms make them in all sizes for both men and women.
A specially designed foot protector for girls working in an
optical-glass department is shown in figure 1. Made of chrome
leather, it has a piece of aluminum curved
to fit the top of the foot. This is protection
to the instep and top of the foot against
falling glass or other falling objects.
Where workers handle acids, or where conditions of great heat or moisture exist,
Courtesy Pittsburgh P late GI••· Co.
wooden-soled shoes have been designed.


Fig. 1.- Foot protect or fo r gi rls
in glass man ufactu re.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Women who work where explosives are manufactured or handled must wear shoes with sewed or wooden-pegged soles and
heels with copper nails.

Wear Your Goggles-You Can't Replace an Eye
Wear an approved safety goggle iri all work even
remotely hazardous to your eyes. Accidental eye ~
losses cost industry about 50 million dollars a year. ~
They cost each worker who loses an eye his most
precious possession, his sight. In New York alone almost 2 ,ooo
workers a year suffer eye injuries severe enough to make them
eligible for compensation benefits. The most frequent cause is
flying bodies. Other causes are tools or machine parts and
splashing liquids. No one can tell when or how an eye accident
will happen, and precautions should be taken.
Goggles are made in lightweight comfortable frames to wear
by themselves or to fit over prescription glasses. There was a
time when goggles were crude because a glass had not been produced that could stand heavy blows. Now glass can be so tempered that it will not shatter from any blow.
One company mounts on a bulletin board each pair of broken
goggles and the object that broke them. Most of them come
from men and women on jobs where the operation does not seem
dangerous to the eyes. At least one large manufacturing concern requires goggles on every job, and visitors must put them on
before entering the plant. This company saved itself $ I 16,000
in 2 years by this requirement. More important, it saved at
least I oo eyes in a period of r o years.
Among the jobs where goggles should be used are upholstering
and sewing-machine and grinding operations. Goggles have
saved more than one eye from broken needles in sewing occupations.

Wear a Cap Around Moving Machinery
In a Government arsenal employing many women
the statement was made recently in answer to a
Women's Bureau inquiry that a woman's hair is the
greatest hazard in her employment on machinery. It
1s possible for the electrical attraction in moving
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


machinery to draw free hair into the machine ( as a brush draws
the hair after brushing), with very terrible results. For this
reason a net should be worn or the hair should be cut short.
After years of experiment a company employing many women
at work with revolving machines, and some in dusty operations,
has decided on a uniform head covering, attractive in appearance as well as efficient in protection.
Two problems ate present-confining the loose hair and preventing the possibility of revolving machinery catching in the
hat and then in the hair. The distinctive features of the cap
decided on are its height ( the top does not touch the girl's
hair) and its stiffness ( it will not catch in revolving machinery).
The head size is not small, so the hat would be thrown off if a girl
did strike a piece of machinery. One girl, after wearing h at her
machine operation for several days, remarked that she never
before had realized how close she was working to her machine.
The touch of the cap warned her she was too close.
Wearing a net to cover all the hair and hold it close to the head
may be necessary where a girl has a lot of hair and the hat does
not entirely cover it.
In this company the management arrived at the best solution
to its hat problem by cooperating with the girl at the machine
on questions of design, material, and comfort. Suggestions for
such a uniform headdress can be given by the workers after the
problem is outlined to them.
After careful consideration, the National Youth Administration has adopted a cap for its girl employees in factory work.
This cap is visored to shade the eyes, is full so that all the hair
may be covered. It is light, comfortable to wear, and washable.
In jobs where dust of any kind is present, and they are many,
a well-fitting cap of closely woven, easily
laundered material adds to comfort and
health. The head covering in figure 2, designed to protect the hair and scalp from
soda bicarbonate used in certain operations,
is made of white batiste in the shape of a
triangle and h e m m e d on all edges.
Cour teRy Pittsburgh P late GlaBB Co.
F ig. 2.- H ead sca rf for prot ec - Wrapped around the head and tied m
ti o n aga in st ha rmful du st s.
front , it furnishes complete protection.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Work Dress Must Suit the Job To Be Safe
The time has passed when clothes selected for the Easter
parade may eventually become work clothes, no matter how
unsuitable. Tight-fitt1.n;g garp:ients cause strain ,that increases
fatigue. Loose, f~ll dr:~ss armG1d m·o ving machinery invites seri"·' - :.
ous inJury.
The girl workin'g: in' ·airplane repair should
wear slacks atid "'bl6us~ wi!:h . short cuffless 1
sleeves, or short-sleeved coveralls, to' "give fre~- .,,, :
dom of movem~nt without danger,of catchi~g ·.
on protruding equipment.
A similar uniform is necessaryJor the woman,,,
working near any moving machinery. •- It niay·
be slacks and blouse, coveralls, or one of the
various types of knicker suits that have been
designed. The important things to remember
when dressing for work at or near moving machinery are no loose sleeves, no full skirts, no ties or frills to catGh
in moving parts. ( See frontispiece.) Both slacks and sleeves
should be made without cuffs. Long sleeves rolled up are even
more to be shunned than cuffs; the loose roll caught in a machine
is most resistant to tearirig and a serious arm injury may result.
Pockets are to be considered, too, and no outside pocket at all is
the safest rule. If an outside pocket is necessary, the Bureau of
Home Economics advises a flat-seamed pocket or flat hip pocket.
On bench assembly work and other factory work without
special hazards, either a simple well-fitting short-sleeved dress
or slacks and blouse like that in figure 3 are appropriate. Freedom of movement spells comfort and efficiency in any work.
Pleated backs in blouses and well-cut garments contribute to
A special dress for work is necessary, too, where there is dust
or other soiling agent. Protecting the street clothes of men and
women working with chlorinated naphthalene in the manufacture of insulated wires and electrical condensers was found essential to prevent cases of serious skin eruptions to young children
and other members of the workers' families. Uniforms highly
starched prevented absorption of the p01son. In case of any
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




poisonous dusts, exposure time is doubled by carrying the poison
around on street clothes.

Courtesy National Safety CounoiL

Fig. 3.-Well-cut slacks and blouse spell comfort and
safety while working near machinery,

With some materials skin contact is known to be a more important cause of poisoning than respiration or digestive contact.
Street clothes must never be contaminated by such materials.
For the comfort of women who must work in cold places a ski
type of trousers has been devised of warm material, fitting well
about the ankles and topped by a closely knitted sweater.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Hand Coverings Can Prevent Skin Infection and Other
Work gloves must be chosen for the job in which
they are to be used. They must be comfortable and ~
durable, as well as protective. Gloves are more than ~
a decorative accessory for the woman in industrial
work. Protection of the fingers and hands can go a
long way in cutting down the number of injuries to women.
Hands and fingers are used in practically every operation connected with earning a living. Even a slight accident to the
fingers can completely disable a worker for the occupation that
requires nimble fingers and accurate handling of small parts.
According to some State reports, approximately half of all occupational injuries to women affect hands and fingers. Gloves can
furnish adequate protection in many cases.
Much assembly w_o rk requires handling sharp or rough objects. An ordinary durable glove of inexpensive type will mean
comfort and safety in this kind of work. Where the parts handled are small, rubber finger guards may be sufficient. Adhesive
tape so often seen around the workers' fingers is a poor substitute,
since its constant use has a harmful effect on the skin and may
even be the cause of a definite irritation.
An operator handling sharp particles wears hand protectors
of leather such as goatskin to protect her hands from the minute
chips. Rubber finger guards are worn to make it easy to handle
the small parts.
Figure 4 illustrates the need for gloves in another operation at
which many women work-inspection of tin plate.
Hands are most often affected by the skin diseases caused by a
great variety of substances used in industry. Gloves made of
fabrics that absorb moisture may become so saturated with the
harmful substance that they are worse than no gloves.
The United States Public Health Service has studied fabrics
to find satisfactory protection against such harmful materials.
As a result they recommend as the most suitable protection
against skin irritants Pliofilm, Vinylite, and Koroseal. These
materials prevent the irritants from coming in contact with the
skin and they have the advantage of not being inflammable.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Courtesy Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corp.

Fig. 4.-Leather gloves and apron used in tin-plate in spection.


They are easily washed with soap and water. With ordinary
care they will last for months in rough occupations. In gloves
they have an elasticity like rubber, without the clammy feeling
of rubbe~. They can be used where rubber would be attacked
by the chemicals used, or where the worker is allergic to rubber
itself. Rubber has other disadvantages, aside from its uncomfortable feeling; it is heavy, tears easily, and may cause dermatitis in susceptible workers.
Protective hoods, sleeves, gloves, and aprons of this type of
material may be worn. Sleeves should fit snugly over the gloves
so that wrists as well as hands are protected. Such protection
is especially helpful where objects are lifted above shoulder level
and may run down onto the forearm, or where material may collect on the edge ~f the glove and be rubbed into the wrist.
Gloves used in working should be considered carefully from
the point of view of comfort. Leather gloves particularly
should be checked · for heavy rough seams or rough edges.
Continual irritation of the skin opens the way for infections.
Gloves are used more than any other single item of protective
clothing, but -around moving machinery a glove is as taboo as a
necklace or a ring. Serious accidents have been caused by wearing gloves while operating drills, p~nch presses, lathes, and other
machines. It is a temptation to wear gloves because of the frequent contact with oil and greasy objects. , Substitute protection
is available for such occupations in the creams and varnishes on
the market. No one cream or varnish is suitable protection for
all substances, and the best method is .to use the specific type of
protection advised for each general group of irritants. In many
cases pure lanolin or a cream with a lanolin base is adequate.
Examples of mixtures requiring special protection include chlorinated solvents, gasoline, chemical mixtures; turpentine; alcohol; turpentine and hydrosolvent mixtures. For such mixtures
advice about the protection to use should be given by the plant
An important consideration when a cream or varnish is used
for protective covering is that it may be washed off with a suitable soap cleanser.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Jewelry Has No Place in the Factory
No jewelry is suitable for factory wear. The useful wrist
watch, the frivolous earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets,
though attractive in themselves, have no place in the factory.
Some companies make definite rules that no visible jewelry may
be worn.



Special Dangers Require Special Kinds of
Work Clothing

Safety clothing now provides protection against almost any
hazard in any type of work. The worker dressed specifically for
her job is safety conscious and less likely to have an accident.
The following list indicates the particular personal equipment
necessary in cases of exposure to the hazards listed :
If the hazard is-

The worker should wear


Corrosive substances, Coat or apron of rubber; rubber or chrome leather
alkalies, or acids. shoes with wooden soles and, in case of corrosives,
with sewed sole; arm and leg protectors of glassfiber cloth; fiber-metal alloy, or rubber; gloves of
rubber or rubberized cotton; rubber hat or hood.
Cuts_________________________ _ Chrome leather is advised for coat, apron, shoes,
leg and arm protectors, and gloves. Metal mesh
may be necessary in apron and in arm and leg
guards, and gloves may be of canvas, metal mesh,
or cotton. Head covering may be of plastic composition, duralumin, or vulcanized fiber.
Dermatitis ________________ Clothing of rubber. May necessitate coat or
apron, shoes, arm protectors, gloves.
Falling objects___________ Shoes with reinforced toes; arm and leg protectors
of fiber-metal alloy; head covering of plastic composition, duralumin, or vulcanized fiber.
Falls or slips____________ Shoes with nonskid soles.
Flying particles ________ Same as for punctures and blows ( which see) with
the exception that shoes with reinforced toes and
metal-mesh or cotton gloves are not necessary, and
in some· cases an asbestos coat or apron would be
preferable to one of leather.
Where rubber is listed, one of the substitutes such as discussed on page 7 may
be used.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


If the hazard is-Con.

The worker should wear--Continued

Hot liquids_______________ Apron or coat of chrome leather; shoes opening at
the side and made of chrome leather; leg and arm
protectors .of fireproofed duck; asbestos or chrome
leather gloves; rubber hat or hood.
Hot materials____________ Asbestos coat or apron; wooden-soled, chrome
leather shoes without front lacing; asbestos arm or
leg protectors, gloves, and hat or hood.
Moisture ___________________ Rubber coat or apron; chrome leather or rubber
shoes; arm and leg protectors of chrome leather or
rubber; gloves of rubber or rubberized cotton; hat
or hood of rubber.
Punctures and blows; Chrome leather shoes with reinforced toes; coat or
sharp, apron of chrome leather or wire mesh; leg and arm
protectors of leather or fiber-metal alloy; gloves
may be chrome leather, metal mesh, or cotton;
necessary head covering of plastic composition,
duralumin, or vulcanized fiber.
Spark explosion ____ ____ Shoes with sewed or wood-pegged soles, copperhailed heels.
Leg protectors include spats, leggings, pants, knee pads.
Arm protectors include sleeve and wrist protectors.
Gloves include also mittens, hand pads, finger guards.
Hats include hoods.

(Material in this list adapted from chart by the American Mutual Liability
Insurance Co.)
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis