It’s that time of year again.Temperatures are already starting to drop. Rain is turning into snow. And, the winds are getting colder and harsher than ever before. There’s no doubt about it, winter is coming. The best way to prepare for it? Make sure you have all of your winter workwear ready to go.Snow, ice, and cold weather can make a tough job even tougher. But with the right equipment, you can overcome these cold weather challenges.
Winter Workwear Should Protect Against These Hazards
With every seasonal change, there comes a new set of hazards that workers must deal with. Winter weather creates hazards that can affect both your health and safety.
The most common health and safety hazards this time of year are:
- Cold Stress
- Slips, Trips and Falls
- Poor Visibility
Cold stress occurs when a person’s skin temperature and internal body temperature drops to unsafe levels. Serious side effects start to develop when the body is no longer able to warm itself.
If not addressed quickly, cold stress can lead to permanent damage or even death. Cold stress can be prevented through training, administrative controls and the proper use of winter work wear.
Don’t think you need training for something simple like weather conditions? Think again. According to OSHA, your employer should provide you with training on the following cold stress topics:
- How to recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress.
- The symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent cold stress and how to help those affected.
- How to select proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions.
Wondering what the heck are administrative controls? Basically, it’s just a fancy term for policies and procedures. Your employer should have certain “controls” in place that help protect you from cold stress hazards. Examples include:
- Scheduling frequent breaks in warm, dry areas to allow the body to warm up.
- Scheduling outdoor work during the warmest part of the day.
- Using the buddy system whenever possible.
Winter Work wear
Cold weather work clothes are a good place to start. Be prepared for cold temperatures by wearing layers.
Start with a base layer that will wick away sweat and moisture. This helps to regulate body temperature and prevent cold stress.
Then, make sure you have warm outer layers such as sweatshirts, bibs and jackets. Need cold weather flame-resistant (FR) or arc-flash (AR) clothing for your job? You can get workwear that will keep you both warm and safe.
You’ll probably also need to stock up on winter accessories. These are all popular winter workwear accessory items:
Training, administrative controls and winter work wear can all help you prevent cold-stress illnesses. This will help you avoid issues like frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite is caused by the freezing of skin and tissues. It can cause permanent damage. Severe cases can also result in amputation.
Hypothermia is a condition where the body loses heat faster than it can be produced. When a person’s internal temperature drops below 95 degrees, the result is hypothermia. As the condition worsens, it leads to confusion, unconsciousness and eventually death.
Another great tip for cold stress safety is to pay attention to weather alerts. Learn how to stay safe before, during and after a winter storm by visiting the National Weather Service Page from NOAA.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips and falls are the number one cause of workplace injuries. This is especially true during the winter months.
Rain, sleet, ice and snow all create slippery conditions for workers. You can overcome these hazards by wearing the proper footwear, maintaining the ground conditions and by using extra caution when traveling from Point A to Point B.
Use Proper Footwear
The first thing to do is make sure you have sturdy work boots. What condition are yours in right now? If they have rips, holes or poor traction, then it’s time to get new ones. You may even want to consider buying an insulated pair to keep you warm in the winter.
Then, you should consider using traction devices, such as slip-on ice grips. The steel studs on the bottom of the grips will help prevent you from slipping on the ice. These are a great product for anyone who spends a significant amount of time working outdoors.
Do keep in mind, that traction devices can cause slips if you step on a metal surface. This includes scrap materials laying on the ground, smooth floors and even steps on mobile equipment. Take them off when working in these areas.
Maintain Ground Conditions
Of course, the best thing you can do is to stay on top of ground maintenance this time of year. Below is a list of activities that will help prevent slips.
- Keep parking lots, roadways and major travel paths plowed.
- Use sand and salt in these areas to provide better traction for both drivers and pedestrians.
- Use ice melt products in front of doorways and on major travel paths to combat the build-up of ice.
Maintaining ground conditions can be challenging, especially as a remote worker or someone who travels from site to site. That’s why you also need to wear the proper footwear and use caution.
Be extra careful when walking around outside. We all know that it can be slippery this time of year. But, often we get complacent or forget. Don’t be in a hurry to get where you’re going. Slow down and watch for ice.
This applies to driving as well. You’ve probably heard the expression “drive for the conditions”. If there are snow, ice and whiteout conditions, then it’s a good idea to slow down.
Trips can happen any time of year, regardless of the weather conditions. In the wintertime, make sure you are mindful of items that could be buried under the snow or frozen to the ground.
Of course, the idea is to practice good housekeeping so that these kinds of trip hazards are avoided in the first place. But, there is always going to be the potential for trip hazards to be present.
The same goes for fall hazards. Working from heights involves risk at all times of the year. It’s important for you to realize that the risk is increased during the wintertime.
Think about the work you do on a regular basis. Ever have to climb on top of equipment or machinery? Climb a ladder? These are just a few examples of work that involve a greater risk of falling when ice and snow are present.
Think about the last time you worked in a blizzard. What was it like? Sometimes it can be hard to see just a few feet in front of you. Thick, heavy snowfall can create some serious visibility hazards.
It doesn’t have to be heavy snowfall that can cause these whiteout conditions. High winds can pick up snow and swirl it around. Combine that with clouds, fog and limited sunlight. Not exactly an ideal day at work, is it?
Keep yourself safe in this kind of weather by wearing high visibility clothing. This is critical if you work around mobile equipment. Stay warm by choosing a winter jacket with high-vis features. You can even find gloves, hard hats and other accessories with high visibility components.
Purchasing Your Winter Workwear
Working in the oil and gas industry does not come without its challenges. Cold weather and winter conditions create additional hazards that you need to prepare for. Be mindful of cold stress hazards, slips, trips, falls and visibility issues. Remember that your gear must be comfortable and flexible — as well as safe. Wearing bulky, stiff or uncomfortable clothing will impact your performance and safety.
It’s always tempting to just toss a warm jacket or hoodie over your gear, but that’s not a good idea. You need to remember about all the other hazards you work with every day. It’s important that the gear you wear not only keeps you warm, but protects you as well.
Check out RMI’s Winter Work wear Catalog for solutions to all your winter challenges. Shop for your cold weather work clothes and all the extra supplies and gear we discussed in this post.
It’s not always easy to know how to choose the right winter work wear that provides warmth and protection. That’s why we’re here to help. Reach out to us if you have any questions or need help choosing the right gear.