Todd Jerome Jenkins, MS, CSP, SMS, CHST, STSC

Safety Aficionado & Ph.D. Student

Weekly Safety Topic – PPE for cold weather

When discussing personal protective equipment (PPE), we generally discuss hard hats, safety glasses, hearing protection, and gloves. We don’t often talk about protecting ourselves from weather extremes. Exposure to cold can make it harder to concentrate, move your hands or fingers, and cause your muscles and joints to stiffen. All contributing factors to injuries.

Working in the cold can be hazardous to your health. You are at risk if you can’t maintain your core body temperature. Several injuries or illnesses are caused by cold weather, from frostbite to the most severe hypothermia. Hypothermia is caused by excess loss of body heat resulting in low body temperatures. Hypothermia can be fatal.

Information about the weather is available 24/7 on the internet, television, radio, and most mobile devices. Check the forecast before you head to work. What type of weather should you expect? Consider the conditions you will be exposed to and what you need to stay warm and dry.

Hand and fingers are very susceptible to getting cold than other body parts because they don’t have a major muscle group producing heat. Gloves should be selected with an inner lining and an outer one. This will help keep your hand warm and dry.

A lot of heat is lost through our heads. A hard hat liner can protect your head, neck, and ears. A full head cover with openings for the eyes, nose, and mouth may be necessary for frigid temperatures. Do not wear a knit hat under your hard hat. It will prevent your hard hat from working correctly.

Protect your body by wearing layers. Layers allow you to adapt your clothing to changing conditions. You can add layers if you get cold or remove them when you’re hot. Thermal undergarments or long-sleeve t-shirts made from a wicking material are ideal for the inner layer closest to your skin. Don’t wear so many layers that you are not comfortable, or your movement is restricted.

Wear long undergarments, overalls, insulated pants, and a waterproof outer layer. Wear thick socks made of a wicking material like wool or synthetic fabrics and insulated boots. Wear water-resistant or over boots if working outdoors or in wet conditions.

Bring a change of clothes, especially socks and gloves liners, if there is a chance your clothes will get wet or just too sweaty. It’s a lot easier to stay warm when you stay dry.

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