When the weather gets colder outside, it’s important to wear layers and cover up. Many people die in the UK winter because they are underprepared for the weather, so it’s vital that companies help workers understand what they need to stay warm. But it’s not just about staying warm.
When workers are working vigorously outside, and they stop, their sweat cools, and without sweat-wicking clothing that sweat can get colder and reduce core body temperature. Here are our tips for covering up with cold weather PPE every site needs.
A common misconception is that heat escapes the most from the head; whilst that may not be true - heat escapes from any open area equally - it’s important that you do not allow heat to escape from an uncovered head.
For on-site, that means you’ll need an appropriate hard-hat or head covering as well as a scarf of some sort.
Do not leave exposed flesh when the temperatures drop. You may find you need to have a scarf covering up to your nose. Make sure that any equipment to keep your head warm does not stop the hard hat from being fitted properly as that will reduce its effectiveness.
Photo credit: David Holt London via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA
Warm Safety Gloves
Cold fingers can lead to numbness which leads to accidents. Keeping your hands warm even reduces risks when operating vibrating equipment, especially from getting nerve damage and VWF. When working out in the cold, choose an appropriate pair of work gloves that protect from what you need. If you need really warm gloves, a thick pair may work, but if you need manual dexterity a pair of with something like touch-sensitive nitrile may work better.
The UK doesn’t really have an off season when it comes to rain, so even in winter it’s a good idea to have protective, sweat-wicking rain layers - that could mean a thin wind and rainproof raincoat over warm jumpers, and some wellington boots or it may mean a hi-vis warm raincoat that’s the main event instead of simply a protective cover.
You’ll have to consider temperature and conditions when choosing the right rainwear. Make sure that if you are wearing safety wellingtons instead of safety boots that they are appropriate for conditions and do not cause additional hazards on site - plus don’t forget a warm pair of socks or your feet may get too cold.
As evenings get darker and days get shorter, when you have workers working on site, you want to make sure they can be seen so anything from hi-vis vests to trousers to jackets will help your workers stay safe and comfortable all day long.
Furthermore, everyone will have peace of mind since you’ll know that there’s less danger that a worker won’t be spotted in time, say, on the roadside or even walking to their work van in the evening.
Layers and versatility in your workwear is a way to save money in the long-run. Your hi-vis rain layers can see you through in spring and hi-vis vests will work just as well in summer as winter. Consider buying pieces to layer instead of specific seasonal wear.
Also, it’s important to ask those who use the equipment what they find works. Do they prefer a heavy winter coat, or would they rather have a thermal layer, a jumper, and raincoat with the ability to add and remove layers as they see fit?
When preparing your workforce for winter on site, make sure that you understand the individual needs of those who work for you: a one-size fits all approach doesn’t always work. For example, you may have someone who is naturally warm and a winter coat will make them overheat faster and cause a hazard, but you may have another employee who will benefit from a winter coat and layers because they’re always too cold.
But will too many layers hamper movement and harm their productivity?
No matter the layers you put on your employee’s bodies, they’ll always need head protection and hand protection, so some pieces will always be a staple and others can have more versatility.