Tideway Tunnel employee designs burka-friendly PPE

9 October 2017

A Muslim woman working on London’s “super sewer” has helped design two innovative items of protective clothing (PPE) for women on construction sites who wear a hijab or a burka.

Leena Begum, who works as a health, safety and well-being coordinator for the joint venture building the west section of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, came up with the designs after encountering difficulties in finding suitable PPE to wear on site.

She was encouraged to present her original designs to the manufacturers, who produced prototypes and samples.

It is thought this is the first time in the world that PPE has been specifically designed for women who observe the hijab and the burka.

Begum said: “As a Muslim woman working in construction, I have experienced how difficult it can be to adhere to my religious values whilst also complying with health and safety requirements on a construction site.

“I had a lot of support and encouragement from colleagues and it’s been so great to see the designs come to life. I hope this helps promote the image of construction as an inclusive, diverse industry to work in.”

Andy Mitchell, chief executive of Tideway, said: “As an industry, there is so much more we need to do to increase inclusivity and diversity. Leena’s fantastic idea can help us address an issue that may have been overlooked in the past, but could help make construction a much more friendly and attractive industry to work in.

“I am so proud of the support and encouragement from the Tideway team, which allows ideas like Leena’s to create positive change.”

Neil Hancox, director of health, safety and well-being for the west section of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, said: “From identifying a lack of suitable PPE clothing, Leena has led the drive to develop something that could be a fantastic legacy.

“A group of people may have been excluded from our industry down to a simple naivety and non-understanding of clothing needs. This is a fabulous idea to aid us as an industry to become more diverse and inclusive.

Earlier this year, Tideway rolled out specially-designed PPE for women, including maternity wear.  


Surely employers, whilst they must provide suitable PPE, must ensure that their duty of care doesn't create further hazards. Loose clothing such as this around machinery is an accident waiting to happen. That said congratulations to her for the idea and effort to follow it through, but from a safety perspective, this protective clothing has the potential to cause serious harm.

Con, 9 October 2017

Great idea so as not to exclude certain religious groups from construction, but not sure how safe it is to still wear the hijab head scarf out on site as it would appear to be a loose garment which would appear very dangerous to me, as it can easily get caught in machinery with devastating consequences, so more design work required I think.

Richard Moore. MCIOB, 9 October 2017

Safety must be paramount, this loose clothing poses an absolute danger on any site, regardless of religious belief, the wearer would be exposed to many high end risks

GAYE BOYLE, 9 October 2017

It’s loose clothing with a hard hat - no matter which way you wear, or look at, it. Following ones religion doesn’t and shouldn’t be a requisite for danger on site. First rule - safety is everyone’s responsibility. Tight fitting PPE every time or someone’s going to get hurt and the first aider has to pick up the pieces. Enough said?

Maria , 9 October 2017

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