As we enter into the winter season, snow continues to fall heavily and temperatures are dropping. Many refer to this time period as “hibernation season” since the only thing most people want to do is stay warm indoors. Unfortunately, for construction workers, being indoors is not an option with their job tasks.
Hypothermia and frostbite are both dangerous conditions that can happen when a person is exposed to extremely cold conditions. Construction workers endure long hours working outside in the cold, so it is highly important they are equipped with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
Continue reading to learn what items you will want to have to stay safe while working outside in cold conditions.
1. Layered Clothing
Layered clothing is an essential component to maintaining body heat while being out in the cold. While one heavy layer may seem like it is just as effective, it is not. Multiple layers of clothing is more effective due to its capability to trap air in between the layers, acting as an insulator.
Material of clothing can make a great difference in keeping one warm. Wool or synthetic clothes are the best, due to their ability to keep moisture out and retain body heat. Cotton on the other hand is not great for outdoor wear, and can soak up moisture making one feel much colder.
Tightness of the clothing also has an effect on body temperature. For instance, tight clothing can restrict movements and decrease insulating effect of the layers.
2. Invest in a Nice Jacket
Be sure to top off your layered clothing with an insulated coat or jacket. Water-resistant, waterproof, or wind-resistant are the best options for keeping one dry and warm. Although these tend to be pricier options, they are a great investment and will last you years.
3. Proper Footwear
Waterproof and insulated boots are crucial when working outside in snow,, slush, rain, or freezing cold conditions. It is important that the footwear you are wearing give you enough room to fit two pairs of socks or one pair of thick socks.
Waterproof and insulated gloves can greatly help keep fingers warmer. Make sure to get a pair that will not get in the way of your job duties. This way, you won’t have to keep removing and re-putting them back on.
5. Head Protection
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), about 50 percent of body heat is lost through the head. Be sure to wear a hat, earmuffs, or invest in a hard hat liner. Face masks are also a good idea when working in very cold environments for a long period of time.
Additional Winter PPE Tips:
- Avoid wearing bulky loose layers, as this can easily get caught in machinery
- Take breaks in heated areas. Spending too much time outside in the cold can be very dangerous to the health and safety of workers
- Bring dry clothes to work to change into if your clothing gets wet
- Be sure to wear PPE equipment over your winter layers. Hiding it can be dangerous and drivers may not be able to spot you on the road as easily.
How to tell the difference between hypothermia and frostbite:
Hypothermia and frostbite are similar, and people often confuse the two. According to cdc.gov, here is the main differences between hypothermia and frostbite:
- Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.
- Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia especially dangerous, because a person may not know that it’s happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.
- While hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.
Common Signs / Symptoms of hypothermia:
- Fumbling hands
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
If you notice any of the above signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees Fahrenheit – Get medical attention immediately!
- Frostbite is a type of injury caused by freezing. It leads to a loss of feeling and color in the areas it affects, usually extremities such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation (removing the affected body part).
Common Signs / Symptoms of frostbite:
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
If you notice any signs of frostbite on yourself or someone else, seek medical care. Also – be sure to check for signs of hypothermia, as this is a more serious condition and requires emergency medical care.
At Frontier Industrial Corp., we believe that safety is the number one tool on the job. Protecting workers and spreading awareness on the dangers of being out in the cold this season is highly important, and can help workers from suffering the effects of experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Stay warm out there!