Although getting through the winter is tough enough, cold, windy and snowy weather can be a detriment to the health and safety of construction workers. In addition to these added health risks, productivity is often hindered when having to deal with such harsh elements. Despite how cold it may be, projects need to be completed and work still needs to be done. This article discusses 10 ways construction workers can stay warm during winter months to ensure health, safety as well as boost productivity.
Have a Warm Break Area
Working on construction sites or out in the field means spending long hours exposed to the elements. Although it is unavoidable to work during cold weather, giving your workers a warm area to rest will help them warm up and re-energize. Breaks are of the utmost importance, but without a warm and comfortable place to rest, breaks become useless. For construction projects that have a long timeline, setting up a modular cabin or warming shelter is a must. For shorter term projects, temporary tents can be used, along with portable heaters.
Multiple Layers of Clothing
Putting on protective coveralls is not enough to stay warm during winter months. It is wise to put on two to three layers of clothing. The first layer should be made of moisture wicking material. This helps to draw sweat away from the body. The second layer of clothing should be designed with breathable material to help insulate the body, like fleece. The outer most material should be waterproof and windproof jacket. In addition to having layers that will keep a workers’ body warm, it is imperative to make sure the clothing they are wearing is flexible and allows for the range of movement necessary to do their job. After identifying specific materials that will keep workers warm, the next step is making sure these articles of clothing are conducive to the physical work construction entails.
Thermal and Wool are a Must
Thermal insulated coveralls are designed to retain body heat and prevent heat loss. Furthermore, they allow for a wide range of motion so they do not affect the worker’s productivity. Wool is another ideal material to combat the cold. Because wool can sometimes be itchy when it makes contact with skin, cotton or synthetic materials over wool will leave workers more comfortable.
Hands are the most widely-used body part in construction, and keeping these warm is extremely important. Although the tendency for many workers is to remove their gloves and continue working, this only increases the chances of frostbite. Finding the right type of lightweight gloves can help workers keep their hands warm. If this still doesn’t work, glove liners are another option. Encourage your workers to try out different types of gloves and combinations as well. Mittens are actually more effective than gloves, and a combination of a glove liner with mittens is ideal when taking breaks or resting in the cold.
Use Pocket or Hand Warmers
Despite your best efforts, operating heavy machinery and other pieces of equipment may be difficult with gloves on. If your workers must take their gloves off while working, make sure to give them access to hand warmers or pocket warmers. There are many options for this, including disposable, refillable or rechargeable devices that each worker can be provided with. One example of hand warmers is the Hotpod which is composed of a USB rechargeable warmer with sleeves.
A sturdy and warm pair of boots is another must for construction workers. When shopping for work boots, factors to consider include whether they are lined with waterproof leather or protective lining that keeps the feet warm. Some of the best options for winter footwear include ones that are felt-lined, rubber bottomed and leather topped. Also removable felt insoles are extremely useful. Work boots are often uncomfortable, and one solution would be to try out a variety of insoles that provide both warmth and comfort.
When it comes to socks, one way to ensure warmth would be having an inner sock made of silk, nylon or thin wool, with a larger outer sock to keep feet comfortable. Socks made from polypropylene is useful for keeping feet dry and warm and wicks sweat away from the skin. If working in wet conditions, having a spare pair of socks is always a good idea.
Keep Head and Neck Covered
While protective coveralls help to protect the body, scarves, headgear and balaclavas are perfect for keeping the face, neck and chest warm. Making sure these areas are not exposed can help mitigate illness and even catching colds.
Having spare clothing for emergencies, or even simply to refresh oneself is another simple option for construction workers. Despite your best efforts to stay warm and dry, winter often provides unwanted moisture and precipitation throughout the day. Having warm and dry clothing to change into halfway through the day can also keep workers warm and avoid illness. During winter, it is important to ensure clothes close to the skin remain dry.
During extremely cold days when face protection is needed, eye protection is advisable. Eye protection, in the form of protective glasses must be separated from the nose and mouth to prevent exhaled moisture from fogging eyewear. Construction workers must be wearing protective eyewear at all times, but in the winter can provide additional benefits. Invest in eyewear that protects against ultralight light from the sun, glare from the snow, blowing snow and high winds. Eyes are extremely sensitive and having a shield from the elements is always a good idea.