There have been many technological advances made for contractor crew members who work in the bitter cold, the latest of which are highlighted in this free winter work gear guide. Keep reading to take a head-to-toe look at how to dress for the deep freeze.
The face, head and chest are more sensitive to temperature changes than the rest of the body, but any part of the body left exposed in cold temperatures leaves workers at risk for cold-related illness.
- Thermal hats: It’s important to utilize moisture-wicking, quick-drying materials (like CoolMax™ linings, polyester fleece or microfiber) and a snug, stretch-fit design to keep warmth in and make for easy layering, including use with a hard hat.
- Balaclavas: A scarf, facemask and hat all in one, these versatile and breathable items are comfortable and fit under hard hats.
- Thermal liners: These are also designed for hard hat compatibility and provide a boost of warmth.
- NOTE: If you need flame-resistant (FR) protection with your thermal liner, avoid what’s commonly called “single wash” FR treatment. Additionally, winter liners made of polyester with topical FR treatments are often inaccurately portrayed as FR-compliant. Make sure your personal protective equipment (PPE) is made with trusted compliant materials like Nomex® or modacrylic blends and sewn with FR Nomex® or meta-aramid threads.
- Trapper hats: Also known as a bomber hat, this headwear often comes in hi-vis styles with added bump protection.
These items will help protect your head during winter jobs.
Outdoor winter work can be tough on eyes (harsh snow-glare) and safety glasses (constant fogging), so it’s no time to skimp on eye protection.
- Polarized protection: Included as part of certain safety glasses, these lenses can reduce the side effects of glare (like eyestrain) and allow eyes to feel more comfortable and well rested.
- Anti-fog lenses: Safety eyewear that incorporates anti-fog technology can significantly reduce or eliminate fog, providing the worker with a consistently clear view. This increases compliance and eliminates the need to constantly remove and wipe the glasses, boosting both safety and productivity.
It’s crucial to focus on these two key factors for winter work.
- Base layers: It’s important to keep moisture away in cold temperatures. Sweat and/or water on the surface of the skin will draw heat away from the body. A moisture-wicking, quick-drying layer is key. Venting underarms and a slightly loose, noncompression fit garment also create a breathable layer of air insulation.
- Midlayers: This second layer – often your work gear or uniform – not only provides an added layer of insulation from the cold to trap body heat, but allows the wearer to react to changing temps and adjust their warmth by removing or adding layers as needed.
- Outer layers: Wind and precipitation pull heat away from the body, as well. The third layer should feature durable materials designed to defend against these elements. Additionally, insulated shells should allow for air and moisture to pass through to the outside, with venting adding another level of temperature control.
Many so-called winter work gloves are made up of cheap insulation and materials that absorb water, allowing cold air to get in. Here’s what to look for in thermal gloves:
- Outer shell: It should feature ripstop nylon with a durable water repellent finish capable of fending off wind and moisture in cold temps.
- Insulation: To maintain warmth and dexterity, look for gloves with dual-zone insulation that use a heavier insulation on the back of the hand and lower-weight insulation on the palm.
- Waterproofing: Quality winter work gloves feature a waterproof membrane to shut out moisture from the outside while allowing sweat to escape.
- Tech-friendly: These gloves will let you perform basic mobile device tasks without exposing your hands to the elements.
Slips, trips and falls are the second most common cause of accidental death in the U.S. every year. Wearing some type of personal ice traction device is a smart option.
- Carbon steel cleats: These provide solid traction on ice and snow-covered surfaces. Heat treating the carbon steel hardens the compound, making it even more durable on rough terrain.
- Tungsten carbide cleats: Made from a durable, exceptionally hard compound, these wear up to 100 times longer than steel and can be made thinner than heat-treated carbon steel, allowing for better penetration and sharper grip on ice and snow.
- Heel-only cleats: These are great for workers who regularly climb ladders or utilize vehicle pedals.
- Easy on/off: Look for cleats with a one-piece design that stretch right over existing footwear.
While versions of anti-slip devices have been available for generations, these designs and materials have improved.
Hydration: A key part of your winter work gear guide
Because hydration is at the core of your body’s regulatory functions, it’s key to health and performance in cold environments. People tend to drink less in cold weather, which puts them at greater risk for cold-related injury and illness.
Here are some handy hydration tips:
- Keep water handy and drink it throughout the day. (This is better than infrequent chugging.)
- Enhance water intake with an electrolyte solution, sports drink or salty snack.
- Drink water before, during and after a shift.
- To make drinking water a habit, start and end each day with a glass.
- The use of hydration packs is a good way to encourage more fluid intake.
For more information on quality winter gear, contact Kyle Schmidt, Border States Safety Market Specialist, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (701) 476-3157.
This blog post was drafted in partnership with Ergodyne. Check out their original article, “Cold weather gear guide: How to dress for winter work.”