November 22, 2013 08:48
Working outside in the winter can mean you are facing everything from wet, heavy snow to blowing winds and blizzards. A wide range of conditions and various levels of physical activity mean that your choice in clothing needs to be deliberate and flexible.
Protect Your Body:
In the winter, clothing is best worn in layers. Multiple layers provide a bigger bang for the safety buck than a single thick garment. Each layer has a specific purpose and addresses two clothing challenges that threaten the health & safety of outside workers; moisture buildup and wind.
1. BASE (layer which is closest to the skin)
• Should be able to wick, or move, moisture away from your skin.
• Clothing should be snug but not constricting.
• Use materials that don’t absorb moisture – no cotton. (Thermal underwear made from polyesters and polypropylene)
2. MIDDLE (insulation layer that goes over the base layer)
• Will trap warm air as your body is constantly giving off heat.
• Clothing should be relatively loose-fitting.
• Materials like wool or fleece.
3. OUTER (shell layer)
• Purpose of this layer is to protect the layers beneath from wind, rain and snow.
• Jackets should be easily closed off or opened at the waist, neck & wrists.
• Waterproof and windproof fabric work well.
Layering allows you to add and remove layers as your physical activity changes. When you’re working up a sweat, take layers off. When you stop, put the layers back on; bundle up, pull up your hood, put your back to the wind, and trap all that heat you’ve generated.
Protect Your Feet:
Your boots need to protect you from workplace hazards but they also need to keep your feet warm and dry. Make sure they are well insulated and will repel moisture. If in doubt, apply a moisture-repellant product to keep out the moisture. Put in winter insoles as the steel-toe and/ or steel shank of your boots may conduct heat away from your feet, so the extra layer helps stop that heat loss. Your boots also need to protect you from slips & falls; choose a sole with a chunky lug type tread. Ice grips are an arrangement of metal springs or treads that can be strapped onto your boots to provide extra traction.
Don’t forget your socks! The simple fact is you need good winter socks. Thick wool socks are cheap, easy to find and can keep you warm even if they get wet. Modern synthetics have improved wicking ability – the property of removing moisture from around your feet - but will be pricier.
Always wear clean socks. The oils & moisture from your feet can rob a few degrees of warmth from your feet. Clean socks keep your feet warmer.
Protect Your Hands:
Your fingers, toes, ears and nose don’t have major muscles to produce heat so they usually feel the cold first. Your Cold Weather Cut Resistant gloves are to protect you against workplace hazards but may not provide you with the necessary warmth when working outside. Wear a thin polyester, polypropylene or fleece glove inside your work gloves to help stop heat loss.
Remember bulky gloves can interfere with your grip. Be extra cautious to ensure you have a firm grip when climbing a ladder or using a tool. Your Cold Weather Cut Resistant gloves have a gripping material built into the fingers and palm.
Protect Your Head:
Last but not least is your head. Just like any other body part that we protect from the harsh winter elements we need to keep our head warm and dry. But at the same time we must ensure we are protected from workplace hazards and that means wearing our hard hats at all times.
Fabric winter liners designed to work in conjunction with our hard hats is the best option and only option approved by the CSA. Winter liners are designed to attach to the hard hat suspension and seat down onto the head. There are a variety of styles available that offer head protection as well as ear and neck protection from the elements.
If wearing a hoodie under your hard hat you must ensure that it is worn completely down on your head so that the material is not interfering with the suspension bands of your hard hat and that you have adjusted the tension so it is secure on your head. Be aware that a hood can block your peripheral vision and affect your hearing. Be particularly careful around moving equipment or vehicles. Also, the strings on hoodies are a potential hazard; they can easily be caught in moving or rotating equipment like a hand grinder.
Wearing a toque under your hard hat is not recommended by the manufacturers nor approved by the CSA because a hard hat needs to fit tightly on your head for maximum protection. With a toque underneath, your hard hat could slip off more easily. If you are wearing a toque you need to ensure you are adjusting the suspension to ensure it is snug and secure.
Taking a few extra minutes to prepare can ensure you stay warm and dry this winter.
Health and Wellness Promotion
City of Saskatoon