Working in the Cold

Telling everyone to stay out of the cold is good advice, but what happens when your job demands you be outside for extended periods of time? Workers in such industries as construction, commercial fishing, and agriculture need to be especially mindful of the weather, its effects on the body, proper prevention techniques, and treatment of cold-related disorders.

The following recommendations may help to reduce the number of cold-related problems workers experience during winter months.

  • When possible, try to work in an area sheltered from the wind.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear at least three layers of clothing: an outer layer to break the wind and allow some ventilation (like gortex or nylon); a middle layer of wool, down, or synthetic pile to absorb sweat and retain insulating properties when wet; and an inner layer of cotton or synthetic weave to allow ventilation and escape of perspiration.
  • Layer clothing to create air pockets that help retain body heat. Layering also makes adapting to changes in weather and level of physical exertion easier.
  • Keep a change of clothing available in case your work clothes get wet. If your clothes get wet, you should try to change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
  • Pay special attention to protecting your feet, hands, head, and face. Your head should be covered (up to 40% of your body heat can be lost when your head is exposed). Fingers and hands lose their dexterity at temperatures below 59°F. Find gloves that will allow you to perform the tasks you need to perform and remember to put dry gloves on if your gloves get wet.
  • Wear boots or shoes that protect against cold and dampness. Footwear needs be insulated and fit comfortably with several layers of socks.
  • Avoid wearing dirty or greasy clothing because they have poor insulating properties and will allow you to get cold faster than clean clothing.

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