The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating article on Respirators. (Subscripton required, sorry). These are the respirators you and I might refer to as “gas masks.”

Seems the average American face has changed a great deal over the past 50 or so years. Our faces are fatter (no surprise, she writes while eating Smoothie Flavored Skittles), and longer then they used to be. Additionally, people who wear these respirators vary greatly–age, gender, race, etc. So, new masks need to be designed and tested and approved.

No problem, right?


By law, all employer-supplied respirators, as these products are known, must be certified by NIOSH that they create an airtight fit on a broad range of faces.

It’s the one-size-fits-all requirement. Why on earth would we have that? (Ahh, government at work.) If Bob and Carol and Jose and Xian and Fiona all have to wear a respirator day in and day out, why should Bob (a 6’4″ 300 pound Jamaican) have a mask that also fits Fiona (a 5’2″ female of Irish descent)? Who would think that even makes sense? Bob should get a mask that fits him and Fiona, Carol, Jose and Xian should all get ones that fit them.

Except they’d be out of compliance.

Granted, one that fits most people is a real advantage in an emergency situation. But, a mask that is worn regularly as part of a job should come in a variety of sizes. Right? Right.

So, let me ask you–how are your pay and benefits plans structured? One size fits all? Are Bob, Carol, Jose, Xian and Fiona all given the same options? Xian has small children and would prefer the option to work at home if they are sick. Jose has no problem working 60 hours a week (he’s exempt, so no overtime costs), but when he wants to vacation, he wants to vacation. Can he have 3 weeks instead of 2? Bob is a very healthy single guy with no children. He would prefer a Health Savings Account to an expensive PPO.

I know, I know, these are a pain to manage. And a bigger pain to explain to all employees. But, doesn’t it make sense to at least try?

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5 thoughts on “One Size Fits All

  1. Evil, you are banging one one of my hot buttons. I understand why we didn’t have personalized compensation/benefits when I was starting out in business. I would taken a legion of clerks with their hand-crank adders to handle all the computation. But know, land o’goshen we’ve got those computer thingies that can calculate the best date to back-date an option.

    Why can’t we use that power to do something that will add value to the experience of working for us. In this day of “War for Talent” you’d think someone would be doing it.

    I predict that someone will and it will make the cover of Business Week. Then it will become the New Great Thing. Kinda like a blindinf flash of the obvious.

  2. Actually, employer supplied certified respirators come in at least four sizes, small through x-large. I know because I have a medium and my co-workers have larges.

    I know that’s not really your point here and I find your analogy interesting, but I thought I’d comment.

  3. Beth–thanks for the insight. I, admittedly, have no knowledge of respirators other than this particular WSJ article. I love when people with more knowledge and insight chime in.

    Wally–it isn’t too often I see “land o’goshen” in the blogosphere, but it made me smile.

    And I’d totally be willing to reveal my identity if they’d put me on the cover of Business Week.

  4. It is a requirement that an employee who must wear a respirator be fit tested. A trained individual must do this. It even includes an odor test, sometimes foul, sometimes banana. The individual must also be trained in the wear and care of the respirator. This is suppose to happen before they do work that requires a respirator.

    What I’ve been trying to do is get my employer, a government agency, to assign respirators as personally assigned equipment. The respirator is assigned to an individual at a location but when they go to other work locations, the respirator is left behind. Why not treat it like an id card. The individual is assigned the respirator at hiring and carries it through their career, replacing or refurbishing as needed.

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