The Importance of Proper Workwear When Working in the Cold
Winter is almost here, and that means it's time for construction workers, and anyone working outdoors, to bundle up in their winter wear. Winter workwear makes you more comfortable in harsh weather, but that isn't the only reason you should wear it on the job site. Below, we explain why proper workwear is essential when working in the cold and how not wearing it can impact your health and safety.
How the Cold Can Affect Your Body
When you're out in the cold, your body reacts to the frigid temperature in various ways. In some cases, the cold can be beneficial. For example, it can clear your mind and help you think more clearly. Working in cold weather can also help you burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight. That said, being out in the cold without proper gear can also affect your body in some not-so-pleasant ways.
More Likely To Get Sick
Many viruses are more potent when the weather is cold and dry. On top of that, cold air can quell your immune responses. These two factors make it more likely that you will fall ill in winter unless you're properly bundled up.
More at Risk for a Heart Attack
Cold weather is a vasoconstrictor that narrows your blood vessels. This slows or, in some cases, blocks blood flow, putting you at a higher risk of a heart attack.
Dries Out Your Skin
Cold, dry weather can also zap moisture from your skin and dry it out. This can worsen skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis and just generally make you feel itchy. Fortunately, wearing proper gear—or generously using creams and lotions—can keep your skin moisturized.
Worsens Asthma Symptoms
If you have asthma or other respiratory problems, the cold can make them worse. The cold irritates your airways, causing them to spasm, and encourages the nasal cavity to produce more mucus. This narrows your nasal passage and makes it harder to breathe.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
And, of course, if you spend too much time in the chilly winter air, it could lead to frostbite or hypothermia. Frostbite is when your skin and the tissues beneath freeze. In its earliest stage, it's harmless, though it may leave you with some temporary numbness and nasty-looking blisters. But as it progresses, frostbite can permanently damage your skin and even cause it to necrose or die. Hypothermia is a severe condition that occurs when your body is unable to produce heat as fast as it’s losing it. When your body temp falls below 95° F, your heart and respiratory system start to fail. If left untreated, hypothermia can be fatal, but treating it is as easy as gradually warming up the body.
How the Cold Can Affect the Working Environment
Cold doesn't just affect your body. It can also affect your working environment and make it more difficult to do your job. Here are a few ways cold weather can impact the construction site and how proper gear can make winter work easier.
During winter, there are fewer hours of sunlight, not just due to DST (Daylight Savings Time) but also due to the weather being cloudy or snowy and blustery most of the time. When the sky is dark, you'll need to use work gear like headlamps to maintain your vision. Otherwise, you may not be able to see what you're doing or where you're going, which can lead to accidents and injury.
The cold can coat the ground in a thin layer of slippery ice. This ice can disrupt your balance and make you more likely to fall and hurt yourself. However, you can protect your feet and toes by wearing a suitable pair of boots. Boots that are insulated, water-resistant, and have no-slip soles will keep your lower body warm and prevent trips and falls.
Your body and the ground aren't the only things that can freeze in winter—essential work materials and tools can too. Wires can become brittle and more likely to break, and equipment may not start on the first try. Plus, all your gear will be cool to the touch. Cold, sharp ice can give your hands frostbite or tear and cut the skin, making it a must to wear a thick, sturdy pair of gloves.
Types of Cold Weather Workwear
Now that you understand why proper workwear is essential when working in the cold, you may question, "What should I wear to work to protect myself from the cold?" Winter work gear comes in many forms. Here are some essential pieces you should consider purchasing.
- Thermal undergarments: A nice starting layer worn flush to the skin
- Long pants or overalls: Should be thick but loose-fitting and lined with soft materials like cotton
- Long-sleeved shirt: Wool, down, or cotton shirts are preferable
- Winter socks and boots: A pair of thermal socks and boots that are insulated, waterproof, and have a non-slip rubber sole will prevent freezing and falling
- Gloves: Leather gloves with wool or cotton insulation are ideal
- Hard hat liner: Worn under your hard hat, these thin liners provide insulation for your noggin. Also known as a Beanie.
- Headlamp: Helps you see in the dark
- Neck gaiter: A stretchy, skintight "scarf" that keeps your neck warm
Ideally, you should wear four layers in the cold—a foundation layer consisting of wool or synthetic undergarments, a mid-layer consisting of warm, long pants or overalls and a thick shirt or sweater, an outer layer or "shell" consisting of a weatherproof, insulated jacket, and an extremity layer consisting of items like gloves, hat liners, socks, and boots. By wearing layers, you put more distance between your skin and the cold, which helps keep you warm.
Wearing proper workwear is essential if you want to stay safe and work productively in the cold. At Concert Shop, we have a variety of high-quality work gear for winter, including heavy-duty work jackets from Blaklader that are comfortable, weatherproof, and easy to move around in. We also carry gloves, headwear, long pants, and more. Get ready for the upcoming cold season by updating your work wardrobe today.