Safety is a full-time job that doesn’t get any easier in the winter months when extreme temperatures, high winds, and wet conditions give safety managers and workers more to worry about. Workers who are exposed to cold environments are at risk for cold stress, which can lead to dangerous conditions such as hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and chilblains.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent Injuries, Illness, and Fatalities Report, nearly 14,000 annual workplace injuries could be attributed to ice, sleet, or snow.
There are many important tips that workers can follow to stay safe this winter season, but one crucial step is providing warm and comfortable personal protective equipment (PPE). Because the market is full of options, safety experts from Magid, a North American PPE manufacturer and distributor, are providing three guidance steps for choosing the optimal winter PPE.
1. Look for moisture-wicking and water-repellent material that can be worn in layers.
When working in cold environments, workers may experience hypothermia or frostbite if they get wet and do not either warm themselves or remove the damp clothing quickly. As such, workers should choose to wear or be provided with water-repellent outerwear and a base layer of clothing that is made from a moisture-wicking material.
Moisture-wicking fabrics help keep workers dry by moving moisture that is caused by sweat to the clothing’s surface and away from the skin. Some clothing protects against dual-hazards. For example, Magid offers its Dual-Hazard Duck Outerwear, which provides arc flash and flash fire protection along with protection from the cold, wind, and water.
Workers should also remember that layering is important during winter months. However, they should be careful to avoid heavy layers that will restrict movement and prevent getting the job done.
2. Buy gloves with additional features such as water-repellent shells, thermal lining, and coatings for working in wet conditions.
The term “lightweight” may only seem relevant to the warmer months, but lightweight gloves can help improve dexterity while keeping workers’ hands dry and comfortable. Look for gloves that maintain dexterity but have additional features such as water-repellent shells, thermal lining to help keep the hands warm, and coatings to help maintain grip in wet conditions.
3. Consider high-visibility options.
Clouds, snow, and sleet are consistent in many winter forecasts, and that can make it harder to see workers on the jobsite. Plus, with shorter winter days, it’s likely workers may be on the job before sunrise or after sunset. High-visibility PPE can help ensure that workers are being seen year-round.
For more safety resources, including how to recognize, treat, and prevent hypothermia on the job, Magid offers a safety resource center on its website.