Winter is here, and with it comes colder temperatures, snow and the potential dangers of cold stress.
Cold temperatures pose an occupational health hazard for many types of workers. Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite, hypothermia and in extreme cases death. It is important for you to provide the proper protection for your employees this winter. This includes protecting the hands, feet, head and body.
Below we have outlined how to properly protect your workers this winter.
Get a Grip on Winter Hand Protection
Cold temperatures can cause injuries, such as frostbite, to the hands and fingers. Frostbite, is usually exhibited when workers report reduced blood flow to their hands as well as numbness or tingling. It is important to recognize these symptoms and provide the proper emergency response. To protect against these dangers, you should provide gloves that keep the hands warm, while also providing maximum dexterity and a good grip. Winter gloves should act as an extra layer of protection, and should fit the specific measurements of individual employees. Another key factor to consider is the lining of the glove itself.
There are different types of liners and each offers a different level of protection and warmth:
- Acrylic – Provides warmth and insulation
- Fleece – Brushed cotton lining provides warmth and comfort
- Foam – Synthetic foam padding liner for flexibility and fit in the cold
- Pile – Synthetic wool liner for durability and a little extra warmth
- Polyester Fiber – Hollow fiber insulation traps warm air for cold weather comfort
- Thinsulate® - Micro fiber insulation for exceptional warmth even when damp
Ensure the Proper Winter Foot Protection
Exposure to the elements, over time, shifts blood away from the hands legs, arms and feet. Such a shift in flow introduces exposed skin and extremities to possible frostbite, hypothermia, and even Trench Foot.
Trench Foot can occur at temperatures as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit if the feet are constantly wet, and non-freezing injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. To prevent heat loss, the body constricts the blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. The skin tissue begins to die, due to a lack of oxygen, nutrients and the buildup of toxic products. Symptoms of Trench Foot include numbness, reddened skin, swelling, leg cramps, tingling pain and blisters.
To protect against Trench Foot and other conditions it is key to properly protect your workers feet. It’s critical to keep feet dry, which means the use of waterproof boots, waders or similar protective gear when working in wet conditions. Job sites with a lot of snow, or melted/melting snow are a prime spot for trench foot. The best bet is to wear waterproof and insulated work boots that rise high enough to prevent any entry of water. In addition, wear two layers of socks (cotton under a pair of wool socks) for added warmth, with a pair of well-fitted boots that come above the ankle.
Keep the Head and Body Warm
One of the most important ways to avoid cold stress is to wear the proper protective clothing. When choosing the correct clothing, the type of fabric makes a difference. Cotton loses insulation when it becomes wet. Wool silk and most synthetics, on the other hand, retain their insulation even when wet.
To stay warm and provide the proper protection your workers should:
- Wear at least three layers of clothing. An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to wick moisture away from the body. A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet, and an outer wind and rain protection layer that allows ventilation to prevent overheating
- Wear a hat or hood, as up to 40% of body heat can be lost when the head is exposed
- Keep a change of dry clothing available in case work clothes become wet
In addition to the proper clothing worker's should:
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
- Work during the warmest parts of the day and take breaks when needed
- Use a buddy system or work in pairs to watch for signs of cold stress
- Consume warm, high calorie food such as pasta to maintain energy reserves
Winter work can be dangerous. Building awareness and providing the proper protective equipment are important steps you can take to protect your workers and fight the winter cold.
Check out our Winter Catalog for more information on the products you need to ensure your team ends each shift without injury.
Have a Safe Day!