The High Cost Of Safety Gear For A Low Income Individual

High Cost Of Safety Gear

The average cost of living in Greater Vancouver

According to the 2015 census, the median total income of households in Vancouver was $72,662. So what does life look like as the average Vancouverite? 

Rent costs approximately one-third of your income: a one-bedroom apartment in the City Centre is $2,054; outside of the city, it’s a little cheaper at  $1,659. This leaves approximately $3,800 for living expenses. Living locally, your zone 1 bus pass costs $98/ month, your food cost, phone, internet, clothing, and entertainment is estimated, for a single person to be $1,143. With this in mind, the average person living in Vancouver has just over $2000 each month to get ahead.

The reality of low income

Low income individuals, the clients that Working Gear supports, represent 16% of all Metro Vancouver citizens. 

According to Stats Canada for a one-person household, the after-tax low-income measure was $22,460 in 2015. That’s $1,872 per month, which must cover rent and all you need to survive. For our clients, this means:

  • Everything outside of basic needs is a decision of what to sacrifice
  • Living out of the city and paying almost double for a bus pass
  • Longer commutes to the city and, sometimes, restricted transit access
  • Food, phone, and “life” must fit into just over $200 per  month

The current price of safety gear

In British Columbia, an employer must enforce the use of safety gear even if they do not provide it. Hard hats and reflective vests may be what is commonly envisioned, but safety gear is highly specific to the job’s needs. Slip-proof boots, rain gear, and ear protection can be just as important to prevent injury. 

Safety equipment is not only essential. It is personal and not easily shared, and is often the first thing a worker will invest in when they’re starting out. 

With this perspective, let’s look at the cost of safety gear. We looked at Mark’s online sales. What does it cost to start that first day of work if you start with nothing? 

Safety Gear

  • A reflective vest $21-149
  • Safety glasses $19
  • Hard hats $59
  • Ear protection $9-$24
  • Boots, gloves, jackets and more are designed and priced for a competitive marketplace making smarter and more expensive components all the time

Personal Gear

  • Work boots $64-159
  • Work jacket $69-$181+
  • Rain gear $24-259; reflective starts at $144
  • Shoe covers $29-69
  • Overalls $59-209
  • Work pants $64-94
  • Gloves $10-43
Work Safe Gear

Work Safe Gear

How Working Gear helps

It is clear how much more difficult it is for low income individuals to be able to access the safety gear and other personal equipment they need for their first week on the job.

Working Gear helps level the field with gently used or new gear so our clients can be ready. The reality is that adequate gear is not good enough. We ensure the donations we carry are high quality items that will last.



Meet Stephen Flynn, Working Gear’s founder

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Stephen Flynn, founder of Working Gear. He talked to us about the impact that Working Gear is making in the community and why it’s important for the organization to continue to receive the support it has until today…

Tell us your name and what you do here at Working Gear:

My name is Stephen Flynn, I am the person who started Working Gear 12 years ago and I’m a volunteer in the shop. I like to come here on Wednesday nights and I like to help a variety of guys get clothes and work gear so that they can get ready to go back to work.

What motivated you to found this organization?

Well when we started Working Gear 12 years ago, there wasn’t any kind of service in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland to assist men going for job interviews or onto a worksite with clothing or gear supports. There was a service like that for women called “Dress for Success” – which is fantastic organization but it didn’t provide services for men.

How much growth have you seen in the last 12 years?

Well it’s been a busy 12 years and Working Gear has been open two or three days a week for almost all of this time. We’ve seen tremendous growth; not only in terms of the size of our shop and the amount of clothing and gear that we provide to men (and now increasingly to women in the trades) but also in terms of the numbers of people we serve. At the current time, we feel that we probably provide services to about 1,000 clients a year. And on a night like tonight, it’s a busy night. We’ve got 10 – 12 clients and five or six volunteers helping them get haircuts, interview clothes and construction gear, especially work boots.

Can you tell us a story that has stayed with you in these last 12 years?

Well there are a number of clients that we’ve had come in to the shop, and these fellows have become volunteers in the shop as well. These are people that we kind of know the best, and have a really good, maybe the best, appreciation for because we’ve gotten to know them over a longer period of time. They might come in once a year, we might see them every couple of years, or they might be repeat clients over the years. And in 12 years, you know they are older, the kinds of jobs they are looking for are different but they are still really challenged to be able to afford nice looking interview clothes or trade appropriate construction gear. These kinds of things are very expensive. And for men who are living in poverty, who don’t have the best paying jobs to begin with, these kinds of support are very important.

How much impact do you see Working Gear is making in the community?

Well that’s a good question. We’re just starting to get better at tracking our statistics. But we know that we do have an impact and that the services we provide are really needed. We know that by working with our partner agencies, the employment service organizations, as well as anecdotally from stories we hear from the men and women coming into our shop that the impact that we have is critical. What we are trying to do is provide accessible clothing and gear supports for our clients to be able to return to work as quickly as possible. We are low barrier, don’t have a lot of paperwork and don’t create barriers for them to get back into the workplace. We want them to have the clothes they need to be able to get out and to find a job.

What can you tell potential donors or partners about this organization? How will their money/ donations contribute to your cause?

Well that’s a good question. Since day one Working Gear has relied upon the kindness of strangers and donors. Most of our clothing and gear is donated, although we do purchase some items such as rain gear and steel toe boots, which is part of the reason why financial donations are so important as well. We feel that, you know, we are not providing handouts to people, we are providing a helping hand up for people that are determined and ready to work. And the donations that they make help keep the doors open here, they keep our services free, and they support not only hundreds but over a thousand men a year who come in and use our services. So those kind of contributions are very important to us, and any donations that are made, whether financial or in-kind, go directly towards our services.

We invite everyone to join us at Working Gear’s Annual Fundraiser – Gear to Give held on June 6th at the Vancouver Club. Click here for more information.

Express Employment Professionals – Title Sponsor for Gear to Give 2018!


We’re excited to announce Express Employment Professionals as the Title Sponsor for this year’s Gear to Give fundraiser, as well as a new primary sponsor for Working Gear!

Express Employment‘s sponsorship of Gear to Give is part of The Impact Project, an initiative of the company’s philanthropic committee, designed to give back to nonprofits nominated by franchisees among their more than 800 franchise locations.

“I’m honoured to be a part of a company that believes so strongly in giving back to communities,” said Brent Pollington, owner of the Vancouver Express Employment Professionals franchise “Working Gear holds a special place in the heart of our team at Express and we’re excited they were selected to receive this donation.”

They’re such a perfect partner for Working Gear Clothing Society, with a vision: “To help as many people as possible find good jobs by helping as many clients as possible find good people.” Their impact is immense, “Express has put more than 5 million people to work worldwide.” We couldn’t be more excited to have them help the deserving men who turn come to Working Gear for extra support. Check out Express Employment Professionals’ website for more information, and let us know if you or your company may also be interested in getting involved with Working Gear.

Thank you to Brent Pollington, and everyone at Express Employment Services! Together, we can help 1000+ men return to the workforce in 2018!

Tickets for our annual Gear to Give fundraiser will become available in the coming weeks, and the event will be held on June 21st at the Vancouver Club.

Volunteer Profile: Dr. Shirley Louth’s Obituary

It is with great sadness that Working Gear informs our community of the passing of our volunteer Dr. Shirley Louth.

Dr. Shirley Louth died unexpectedly from an acute infection on Monday, January 22nd, 2018. She was predeceased by her dear husband Douglas. Loving mother of Christopher and Evelyn and sister to Lynda. Shirley will be greatly missed by daughter-in-law Lisa, grandchildren Colwyn, Emrys and Rhiannon and many family members across the world, including Andrew, Lenka and their children in Canada. Shirley will also be fondly remembered by the host of friends and colleagues whose lives she touched over the years.

Born in Luderitz in German South West Africa (the country now recognized as Namibia), she is the daughter of Lee and Lillian Gordon-Bell. Shirley lived in South Africa and the United Kingdom before moving to Canada.

She completed her doctoral training at UBC and taught for many years at Langara College, concurrently working as a senior psychology advisor at WorkSafe BC. She loved her work and was dedicated to helping others who were going through difficult times.

Dr. Shirley Louth was a valued member of our team, and a loving volunteer, she will be greatly missed. Her wisdom infused the atmosphere of our organization, with insights and patience that have been deeply appreciated. The expertise and sympathy she demonstrated day-to-day in our organization have created a spirit of encouragement that was equally as inspirational to the people who walked in our doors, as it was to the rest of our team. She has been a kind mentor, and her positive influence in the community will continue to resonate.

A Memorial will be held at the Richmond Golf & Country Club, Steveston Highway, Richmond from 10:30 to noon on Tuesday, February 6th.