05 Dec Cold Weather Safety Tips
Last week we talked about the cold, so now let’s talk about fighting it…
Cold Weather Management
Workers have learned from experience (and “A Christmas Story”) not to touch cold metal with unprotected skin or stay outside too long in extreme cold. But supervisors still must review cold weather safety procedures with their crews from time to time. This is especially important at the beginning of the cold weather season, or when workers are distracted or preoccupied for some reason.
Many times workers are alone or in isolated areas, so good safety training is especially important. Often workers put themselves in danger when they forget about the cold because they are concentrating on their job. If they are reminded about the cold, they are more likely to think about it and take appropriate action.
Brave the Elements Safely
When workers have to venture outside, making sure they wear good protective clothing is the best way to help guarantee their safety.
Follow Body Basics
As most cold climate dwellers already know, one of the secrets to winter warmth is layering.
Thermal long underwear provides a snug‐fitting layer against the skin and wicks perspiration away from it. Insulated bib overalls are popular with many outdoor workers. They usually have a polyester, cotton and acrylic blend shell over quilted polyfill or Thinsulate® insulation.
Some garments warm different parts of the body and have special compartments for small heat packets. Duck canvas coveralls, flannel work shirts and down vests also are common for outdoor workers. For outerwear, wind and moisture resistance are essential for workers’ comfort. Jackets made with a Gore‐Tex® shell work well, but can be expensive. Other similar materials on the market do the job equally well and cost less.
Start at the Bottom
For feet, wool or wool blend socks are better for warmth than cotton, and they keep your feet drier. For particularly cold conditions, put the wool socks over a lightweight fabric such as polypropylene.
Heavy‐duty insulated boots (protective toe of course) are a good bet for the cold. Avoid tight fitting boots. They can restrict blood circulation and limit the amount of trapped air necessary for insulation. Waterproof boots can help prevent frostbite in wet conditions. However, in cold, dry conditions they can trap perspiration and increase the chance of injury. Remember to look for a sole that will protect you from falls on snow and ice.
Handy Ways to Combat Cold
Hands need as much protection as feet, even though the protection must occasionally come off during the course of the work. Insulated leather work gloves are both sturdy and warm.
Some workers, such as electrical linemen, choose “first‐finger mitts” in which the Index finger and thumb have their own openings but the remaining fingers are grouped together for warmth.
The bitter cold on a worker’s face and neck can be a little distraction or a big safety problem. For neckwear, choose chokers rather than scarves. Scarves can become entangled in equipment.
A balaclava or partial face covering can keep sensitive noses and cheeks warm. Specially designed wind guards and face masks also can be used for protection when exposed to the extreme cold.
Top it Off
Finally, don’t forget the hat or hardhat liner. More body heat escapes through the head than from anywhere else on the body.
A hat that covers the ears — or a combination of hat and headband — will help keep workers warm and comfortable. Wool or synthetic materials such as Polarfleece will do.