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Work gear developed to fit shipbuilding women

JOC News Service
Work gear developed to fit shipbuilding women
SEASPAN — Crews work on a ship at Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards in B.C. As the number of women working building ships is increasing, Seaspan has partnered with Helga Wear to develop work clothes specifically for the needs of women.

VICTORIA, B.C. – Seaspan and Helga Wear have partnered to develop work gear for women.

Helga Wear has developed a coverall for the women of Seaspan that meets safety requirements, offers a fit proportioned for a woman’s body, has zippered legs to facilitate going to the washroom, as well as other features such as adjustable collar widths, elasticated waists, and knee pad pockets.

Field-testing of the coveralls took place this summer at Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyard. According to Seaspan, the women were pleased with the product’s performance.

Working with ALSCO Linen Services, another Seaspan partner, Helga Wear will be providing Seaspan with three pairs of coveralls for each of the Shipyards’ women trade workers. ALSCO has also committed to adding Helga Wear coveralls to their product line, ensuring that the fledgling Canadian company’s coveralls will reach across Canada, and potentially to other markets.

“We’re really proud to be working with Seaspan and Helga Wear on this initiative,” explained Jorge do Nascimento, general manager of ALSCO Canada, applauding Jodi and Karen’s determination to ensure that the evolving workplace is equitable for all.   

Jodi Huettner got the idea for female-specific work clothing in 2011, when she began her career as a junior engineer in the BC environmental consulting industry. She soon found that work overalls and coveralls designed for a woman’s body did not exist.

“I founded Helga Wear in 2014 to solve that problem,” said Huettner. “Improperly fitting work attire causes safety issues, plus, it’s not ideal when you can’t take a hygiene break without removing your tool belt, high-vis vest and coveralls.”

Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards reached out to Huettner after running into the same problem while trying to supply their female shipbuilders with adequate work clothes.

“I’d reached out to a number of suppliers and kept hearing the same thing: ‘We don’t have a product specifically designed for women, they will just have to use the men’s coverall and adapt’ — I was not impressed,” said Karen Clarke, senior manager, supply chain management at the Victoria Shipyards. 

Clarke saw Huettner interviewed about her start-up by CBC and immediately contacted her. After a meeting, Seaspan provided Helga Wear with seed funding for product design and developing a product for female shipbuilders.

“Highly-skilled women in the trades shouldn’t have to adapt to the uniform, it should adapt to them,” Clarke said.

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