Winter is already here, and so are darker days and cold, wet weather. This is the time when Canadians are more susceptible to workplace hazards and sickness brought about by some of the toughest weather conditions this country has to offer.
Cold weather can affect mental alertness and manual dexterity, and can lead to accidents such as slips, trips, and falls. Exposure to cold weather can also bring about deadly health risks such as hypothermia and frostbite. All of these things can affect worker productivity and ultimately, the bottom line of your company.
For workers who spend much of their time outdoors, preparation is a must. This means that members of the workforce such as construction workers, road crews, utility workers, fire fighters, and commercial fishermen, to name a few, must use specialized weather-appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and clothing to be able to combat the harsh, cold temperature and still perform their work task safely and properly.
Employers must provide the right PPE that are suitable for the temperature, the task that will be done, and the physical exertion needed to accomplish the task. The PPE should also comply with government standards and regulations. If your workers are exposed to harsh winter conditions, the following PPE items are a must so your employees will be safer, healthier and more productive in winter work environments:
In extreme cold and wet environments, your employees need an anti-exposure work suit that can protect them from hypothermia. These are waterproof and designed to keep you warm on the boat and in the water. The one-piece overall provides comfort and allows for a full range of motion so you can perform your tasks well.
Rain can aggravate winter cold problems. Employees who work in the rain should wear rain gear that fully covers their body. Rainwear come in three types: water-resistant, waterproof/breathable, and waterproof. Which type to choose depends on how much time you will be spending in the rain and the intensity of your tasks.
The eyes are often forgotten when it comes to winter protection. But cold air and wind can quickly dry eyes and mucous membranes. Goggle help prevent eyes from heat and moisture loss. They also protect your eyes from wind and flying particles, and provide additional face coverage as well.
Your hands are your most important tools to perform any task, so it only follows that you should make sure they are protected from the harsh weather. A good pair of warm, insulated work gloves is a necessity when working outdoors in cold climates. You can choose from mittens, ski gloves, neoprene glove and other options to address your cold weather exposure needs.
Like your hands, you also need to keep your feet warm. Extremities, such as the hands and feet, are most prone to conditions such as frostbite and chilblains. Felt-lined, rubber bottomed, leather-topped boots with removable insoles are best for heavy work in cold weather, but waterproof boots are more suited to tasks that involves walking and standing in water.
Traction devices are placed over existing footwear to give extra traction for walking on wet, icy surface, and prevents slip and trip incidents. These are ideal for road construction workers, roofers, installers, deliver person, utility men, among others.
Use cold weather winter liners to keep the head, neck, and ears warm when wearing a hard hat or other safety head gear. For more severe exposure to cold weather, there are full head covers with openings for the eyes, nostrils, and mouth, and come in flannel, knit, and even neoprene materials.
Wind chill can be dangerous in windy environments. A work tent acts as a temporary shelter for your workers who need to work outdoors, and reduces the length of exposure of workers to deadly wind chill factor.
Working outdoors in the cold is no laughing matter. It can be dangerous to the untrained and to people without adequate winter clothing. But for a well-informed and prepared worker, it can be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Wearing winter-appropriate PPE helps make that happen, as well as following these winter safety guidelines to avoid accidents and mishaps in the workplace.
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