When you spend every day walking across steel beams & shaky scaffolding, fall protection is an indispensable part of your wardrobe.

Equa

Equa is universal fall protection

In the historically male-dominated construction industry, life-saving safety equipment has been designed for men, by men. Alternatively, Equa Fall Protection is designed by women, for all construction workers. 

This capstone project was completed with a lot of love in May of 2019 after 10 weeks of research, ideation, and prototyping. My team and I set out to challenge the status quo of personal protective equipment in the construction industry and in the end won Best in Show at our senior show out of some 50 odd graphic, interactive, and industrial design capstones done by our classmates. 

My role: research, initial and final ideation, technical drawings, prototyping, final model construction, material choices and sourcing, research location scouting, visual branding, final model photography

Industrial Design Capstone Project

Spring 2019 | 9.5 weeks

Collaborative project by Grace Budgett, Perry Burke, and Audrey Levy

"Women are most likely to suffer from injuries as a result of ill fitting gear.”

 

Equa improves protection on site—the result is more safety & less stigmatization.

Women on construction sites face many challenges spanning from sexual harassment to ill-fitting gear and tools. Despite these challenges being so different, they are ultimately connected; accidents, refusal to do tasks, and sexualization of women's bodies are all results of poorly fitted gear or tools. Equa's intent is to reverse those norms. 

What makes Equa different.

Equa Fall Harness is designed to comfortably support and protect the bodies of all construction workers. During our primary research, we identified ill-fitting personal protective equipment and inability to easily remove harnesses for restroom use. Women working on construction sites have learned to live with these struggles, but only out of necessity.
 

Beyond aggravation, typical harness pain points also compromise the safety of workers. For example, typical chest straps are uncomfortable for women and they often move it upward to accommodate for their breasts; this can become a serious choking hazard if a fall should occur. Equa distributes weight across the chest and allows for "boots-on-the-ground" leg strap removal. Equa is a step toward fall protection equipment that embraces all bodies. 

 

Research

When my team and I started this project, we hadn't located a problem yet, and it wasn't until a mentor of mine reminded me to design for those who are under-designed for that we began investigating construction sites. 

As a construction management professor was showing us diagrams displaying anthropometric data and the physical strain of pulling a large cart of supplies, it became apparent that the data was indicating for only male physique.

 

That's when we began research into protective equipment practices in the construction industry.  

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Forum Responses

Responses from women in a private forum for women in construction about their experiences with PPE.

On Site Research

Skanska, a commercial construction company, allowed us to take an immersive tour of a construction site, to ask questions of the construction workers, and to watch them use equipment during tasks. The construction manager took us directly to all of the women on the site to ask questions and these personal interviews with women helped make clear the problems with fall harnesses.

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Success Criteria

Universal Design

Post-Fall Trauma Relief

Ease of Everyday Wear

 

Existing Solutions

Examples of some commonly used existing solutions that were referenced directly by participants. Studying these products closely was key to our understanding of the market for progressive fall protection.

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The process for this project was fascinating and challenging. The engineering, wear, and material requirements of designing a such a technical piece of gear demanded a lot of attention. 

Through this process, I learned about designing different aesthetic styles in extreme detail, trends in soft goods, and how to fully prototype a complicated harness construction. 

Process

Quick Fail Prototyping

Before delving anymore into concepting, my team and I made some prototypes so that we could fail fast and hard and begin understanding the construction of fall harnesses better.

This initial prototype was supposed to have the closest construction to a working fall harness and was tested with moderate suspension so that we could learn more about the distribution on weight on the body. 

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too big

uncomfortable leg fit

good fit for shoulders

Line/Fit Ideology

Taking inspiration from fitness wear and super hero , we moved forward taking care to pay attention to the technical nature of the industry as well as the desire from users for something that felt more badass. 

CMF Ideology

Taking inspiration from CMF trends such as bold color accents, texture details, and sleek silhouettes, we moved forward taking care to pay attention to the technical nature of the industry as well as the desire from users for something that felt more badass. 

Initial Ideation

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screamer fall absorption + suspension relief

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adjustable hardware

Ideation around options for force distribution, suspension relief, etc. 

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chest security shape/construction

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leg strap corset construction

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Chest Shape

The chest security fit, shape, look and feel--determined through testing--needed to be comfortable for users, easy to fasten and unfasten, distribute force across the chest, and look appropriate for all bodies. That meant avoiding the "bikini" look. This criteria helped us to narrow down the shape to something more like number 6, geometric soft.

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double fastener

geometric

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butterfly

cross strap update

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stretched soft

geometric soft

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Basic Variations

Organic unattached--meaning that the main structures are detached from each other and connected with webbing--was chosen for being more flattering and comfortable for a body, and the benefits of disconnected pieces that allow for adjustability.

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geometric unattached

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organic joined

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organic unattached

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independent elements

geometric soft

CMF/Construction Variations

Internal/external color pops were chosen in order to achieve the right amount of visibility and to make donning the harness easier. Users can identify the important/body contact elements by color. Layered materials allowed for ease of construction, cleaning up the overall look and hiding excess webbing, and falls in line with the identified trends for our idealized CMF.

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exposed webbing/"stretched" details

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subtle piped lines

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internal/external color pops and layered materials

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layered materials

internal color pops

 

Fabrication

Fabrication was completed solely by my team and I in the build shop at the internship I had at the time, Industrial Alchemy. This complex process was challenging but oh-so fun.