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Safety Wonderland Blog Series – Part 3: Warm Clothing Isn’t Just for Comfort

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on December 12, 2018 at 7:08 AM

Outdoor jobs like construction or oil rigging don’t get put on hold when cold weather comes knocking. Instead, it’s important to learn how to work with the cold rather than against it so you can remain productive and profitable without incurring any safety risks.

How to Stay Warm When Working Outdoors

You can’t control the weather, but you can protect yourself against its effects. Keep the following tips in mind when working outside this winter.

The Benefits of Layering

It’s logical enough: when it’s cold and you’re working outside, you dress for the weather. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to dress warmly.

Three layers of clothing is your best option for outdoor work. The key is to choose clothing that will layer easily and give you a full range of motion.

  • The base layer should provide moisture wicking to keep sweat away from your body.

  • The second layer should be made of breathable material that also insulates (fleece is ideal here).

  • The third layer should be able to protect you from the elements, such as snow or wind. This is your bulkiest layer and will be the first one to shed when you get too warm. 

Keep Moving

The cold may slow you down, but you’ll stay warmer if you keep moving. Your body generates heat through movement so you can stay warm while you work.

Cover Your Head

It’s actually a myth that the majority of your body heat escapes via your head, but it’s still a good idea to keep it covered at all times when working outside. Protecting your face and ears from the cold can prevent chapping and dry skin, both of which can be uncomfortable and last a long time.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia

When your body can’t generate heat as fast as it loses it, hypothermia occurs. It’s critical to know the warning signs so you can take action before its effects set in. If you experience any of the following, stop working and start warming:

  • Shivering
  • Confusion
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of coordination
  • A slow pulse
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness

To combat hypothermia, you’ll want to remove any wet clothing and start warming from the core of the body. It’s tempting to heat your hands and feet first, but getting the core temperature up first will ensure that all parts of the body get the warmth they need.

Options for Warm Safety Clothing and Gear

There are tons of clothing options specialized for outdoor winter work that will help you stay warm and layer appropriately. Take a look at our top picks to ensure you’re dressing the correct part:

Heated Jackets

Heated jackets are battery operated and will keep you warm regardless of what Mother Nature is doing. Most of them have various settings so you can choose your degree of comfort.

Thermal Shirts and Pants

Ideal as a base layer, thermal shirts and pants are excellent at keeping the cold at bay without making your sweat. They’re light and breathable, but do a good job at wicking moisture from your body.

Cold Weather Accessories

Opt for a pair of gloves that offer insulation without adding bulk. Also, consider hard hat liners that cover your head, ears, and much of your face without affecting your hearing or vision.

Hand Warmers

Pocket-sized hand warmers are favorite job site accessories. Simply hold them in your hands or place them in your shoes for a quick warm up. You can also find adhesive warmers that stay in place under your clothing for extra warmth.

Stay Warm, Not Hot

While keeping warm when working outside is essential to health and safety, it’s important you don’t get too hot. Layering up to the point of sweating isn’t doing you any favors, and can actually have a reverse impact. Sweat helps to cool your body down, and the moisture can leave you feeling uncomfortable and chilled. With the right clothing and proper layering and recognizing the signs of hypothermia, you can remain safe at work—and maybe forget just how cold it is.

Check out our other posts in the Safety Wonderland blog series:

Topics: Safety Tips, Winter Safety

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