AMSJ » Inclusion and diversity – BHP and Blackwoods are partnering for change

Inclusion and diversity – BHP and Blackwoods are partnering for change

For any employee, the uniform you wear can play a big role in how comfortable and confident you feel in your job. In formerly male-dominated industries such as resources, the design of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other industrial workwear has historically been centred on male requirements.

For decades, a culture of ‘making do’ has resulted in women in these industries wearing uniforms that don’t fit, are uncomfortable and impact their sense of belonging in the workplace. “In the past, the women’s range has been very limited and not suitable for our women in the workforce,” said Lorna Kenny, Administration Assistant, Goonyella Riverside Mine Maintenance. 

In recognition of the critical role that uniforms play in an employee’s sense of belonging and safety, BHP has been working with our major materials supplier Blackwoods to redesign PPE and work wear to ensure everyone is proud to put on their uniform, in particular females. Blackwoods has also engaged their major supplier – The Work Wear group – to deliver on these requirements.
Blackwoods has undertaken an extensive consultation program to understand the needs of end-users. So far, this has included an Innovation Clothing Roadshow across BHP’s Australian operations, where they visited every site, meeting with more than 220 BHP employees, to discuss the improvements required to the clothing range.

They have also hosted a specific maternity wear workshop with 30 participants, who were all pregnant at the time. This workshop resulted in the design of a custom maternity wear range that is fit-for-purpose and that expectant mothers actually want to wear.
“The amount of insight we got from the roadshow session was phenomenal and really helped us come up with a terrific industrial maternity wear range,” said Sandra Alcock, General Manager Queensland and Mega-Mining at Blackwoods.

Following the innovation and maternity wear workshops, Blackwoods incorporated employee feedback into a range of new designs. These designs were then trialled by those who attended the workshops and they provided further feedback. The designs were then refined before being rolled out across all of BHP’s Australian operations.

“It means a lot to feel like I can choose PPE that is the right size for me, that fits my body well and protects me in my role.”

Jade Gallop, Administrator, Mining Equipment Maintenance, BHP

To date, 72 changes and improvements have been made to the clothing range. These have included everything from the size of socks and female boots, to the size and weight of helmets, garments, trousers and headlamps.

“This is an ongoing process, it’s all about continuous improvement, and we will continue to work with the BHP team and people onsite to ensure that the range continues to develop over time,” said Sandra.

When Blackwoods started this journey with BHP, there were just 18 female ranges compared to 60 male ranges. Now, there are 52 female ranges, with unisex options filling the small gap that remains.

The positive feedback from employees speaks for itself:

“It makes me feel really included as a female working for BHP. It means a lot to feel like I can choose PPE that is the right size for me, that fits my body quite well and still protects me in my role. That’s really important when it comes to feeling included as a site worker, as a member of BHP, and living FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) life.” 

Jade Gallop, Administrator, Mining Equipment Maintenance

Blackwoods has committed to continue regular consultation with BHP’s workforce to ensure the clothing they produce supports a diverse and inclusive environment and enhances female hiring and retention rates. 

“It is an equal partnership. It is not a push-pull relationship – it is hand in hand,” said Mike Beaver, Manager, Category Management, Procurement, BHP.

“The goals of the program are to make sure our people are proud to put their clothes on every day and after 12 months, I think we are well and truly on our way to achieving that.”

This story is an extract from BHPs Inclusion and diversity – Partnering for change’

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AMSJ Nov 2021