What PPE Do You Need for Cold Weather?
By Alexandra Serban
October 11, 2019
During summer months, safety managers are concerned with managing heat stress. When winter comes and temperatures go below zero degrees Celsius, workers and managers face the opposite phenomenon – cold stress.
Cold-related disorders such as hypothermia, frostbite or chilblains can become paralyzing, unless safety measures are taken seriously. Here is how weather-appropriate PPE can help reduce health and safety risks related to extreme temperatures.
Frostbites affect areas that may have limited blood circulation, such as fingers, toes, nose and ears.
To protect fingers from frostbite, gloves are a critical part of cold-weather PPE. And they should balance protection, flexibility and dexterity — even at very low temperatures. These are some of the recommended features cold-protective hand gloves should include:
1. EN511 winter lining for environments down to -20ºF
2. Multilayer palm fabrics for protection and grip
3. Knuckle protection against moisture and impact
4. Fingertip and thumb-crotch protection
5. Moisture-wicking fabric for sweat management
6. Cut-resistant outer shell
For tough environmental conditions, Honeywell has created the Rig Dog Extreme Cold Protect, a next-gen safety glove with EN511-rated winter lining for cold environments. Find out more.
Protective clothing should be selected according to temperature, weather conditions such as wind speed, the duration of outdoor activity and the level of intensity of the job performed. That’s because the level of perspiration generated while working dictates the layering. In general, multiple layers are better than a single thick garment, so workers have the option to remove a layer when sweating, or add it when taking breaks.
The inner layer should provide insulation and keep moisture away from the skin, to keep it dry. Synthetic fibers, such as polyesters and polypropylene are two materials that fit this purpose. On the other hand, the outer layer should be waterproof and moisture should be kept off before entering heated places. The outer layer should have openings, to allow perspiration to escape and evaporate.
Anti-UV eye protection
Anti-fog coating and UV protection should be included in all winter safety goggles. Solar radiation shouldn’t be underestimated during winter months, as bright light reflected in the snow can damage eyesight. Safety glasses with silver mirrors are a great choice, providing anti-glare protection in strong sunlight.
Insulated anti-slip boots
In the past year, there were more than 20,000 workplace injuries due to falls from ice, sleet, and snow. 28% of those resulted in more than a month away from work. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Due to an increased risk of slipping, anti-slip soles are crucial for winter safety footwear. We also recommend felt-lined boots for insulation. Leather-topped boots with removable felt insoles are also great for sweat evaporation as leather is porous and allows feet to “breathe”. On the other hand, from this perspective, waterproof materials are not ideal, as socks become wet and favor frostbite. When it comes to socks, liner socks made of synthetic materials are one of the best options to keep feet dry and keep sweat away from the skin.
Lastly, please remember these useful prevention tips:
- dress in layers of warm clothing
- cover all exposed skin
- keep active
- stay hydrated
- avoid prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures.