Solution Summary: Protective Clothing and Equipment for Cold-Related Injuries and Illnesses
Personal protective clothing and equipment, such as jackets, hats, gloves, heat accessories, and footwear traction devices can reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses associated with working in a cold environment. Working in cold temperatures and high winds, particularly if the skin is wet, for an extended period can result in cold-related injuries and illnesses. Using footwear traction devices and insulated, waterproof, and wind-resistant protective clothing can have a positive impact on safety and productivity. Ensuring the availability and use of adequate personal protective clothing and equipment helps to lower the risk of cold-related injuries and illnesses.
When working in cold environments, workers should ensure they are prepared with adequate personal protective clothing and equipment. Workers must protect themselves from conditions including slippery work surfaces, cold temperatures, moisture and wind. Minimal skin exposure helps to reduce the chances of cold-related injuries. When selecting personal protective clothing and equipment, employers and workers should consider the following:
- Wear multiple layers of warm, breathable, loose fitting clothing.
- When choosing between fabrics, select wool, silk and most synthetics over cotton. “Cotton loses its insulation value when it becomes wet. Wool, silk and most synthetics, on the other hand, retain their insulation even when wet” (OSHA).
- Avoid tight fitting clothing to reduce the possibility of restricting blood circulation throughout the body.
- Reduce the cooling effect of the wind by wearing an easily removable windbreak garment.
- Provide special protection of the hands to maintain dexterity and prevent accidents. Below 60.8°F, special provisions for keeping hands warm must be provided if fine work will be done with bare hands for more than 10 to 20 minutes.
- If air temperature is 0°F or less, protect the hands with mittens and purchase tools designed to be used without taking off mittens.
- If heavy work is anticipated in the cold, ensure outer garments allow for easy ventilation to prevent wetting of inner layers by sweat.
- Wear hard hat liners or hats to prevent heat loss from the head.
- Wear face masks to reduce exposed skin in extreme conditions.
- Ensure boots are both insulated and waterproof.
- Ensure footwear has adequate traction on the walking or working surface. Some footwear traction devices designed to provide increased traction on ice and snow provide less traction on surfaces without ice or snow, which could lead to falls.
- Supply eye protection for outdoor work in snow and ice-covered terrain to guard against ultraviolet light, glare and blowing ice crystals.
The following items are examples of clothing and equipment that can provide protection from cold-related injuries and illnesses. Many other similar products are available.
NEESEVIZTM Class 3 Hi-Vis Lime Bomber Jacket
- Cost: $58.95 (verified 1/2014)
- Features: reflective material, removable polyester fleece liner, removable hood
- Material: PVC coated polyester
Ideal for moderate to cold weather conditions
Milwaukee M12™ Cordless LITHIUM-ION Red Heated Jacket Kit
(Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Tool)
- Soft Shell Material: 95% polyester, 5% spandex
- Heating Time: up to 6 hours
- Charge Time: 30 minutes
- Battery: rechargeable 12V lithium-ion
- Weight: 2.6 pounds
Features: water and wind resistant, three different heating zones (right chest, left chest, back), three different heat settings
N-Ferno® 6877 3-Layer Winter Hard Hat Liner with Fire-Resistant Shell
Ergodyne Proflex® 876WP Hi-Vis Thermal Waterproof Gloves
(Photo courtesy of Ergodyne)
- Insulation: 40g 3M™ Thinsulate™ lining
Features: breathable, waterproof, windproof
Men’s UA Base™ 2.0 Crew
- Cost: $54.99 (verified 1/2014)
- Weight: 4.7 oz
Features: moisture wicking, quick-dry fabric, stretch fabric for mobility
Carhartt® Men's Extremes Zip-to-Waist Biberall/Arctic Quilt Lined
- Cost: $150.00 (verified 1/2014)
- Material: 1000-denier Cordura® nylon, lined in arctic-weight 100% quilted nylon polyester
Features: water-repellant, double knee design to accommodate knee pads, foot to hip leg zippers
Fox River Steel-Toe Wick Dry® Crew Work Sock
- Cost: $13.00/ 2 pair (verified 1/2014)
- Material: 81% acrylic, 18% nylon, 1% spandex
Features: moisture wicking, heavyweight, cold weather sock, cushioned sole
Carolina® Men’s 8” Steel Toe Waterproof Insulated Logger Boots
- Cost: $136.00
- Steel Toe
- 600 Grams of Thinsulate™ Insulation
- Electric Hazard Rated
One piece rubber lug outsole
Yaktrax® Walk and Pro Ice-Traction Devices
Poly Elastomer Blend
1.2 mm abrasion resistant steel
1.4 mm abrasion resistant steel
- Attaches to shoes or boots to provide traction and stability on snow and ice
- Weight: 2 to 4 ounces
STABILicersTM Maxx Ice Cleats
- Cost: $49.95
- Attaches to shoes or boots to provide traction and stability on snow and ice
- 34 cleats
- Case hardened steel or brass (softer and non-sparking)
ThermaCELL Remote-Controlled Heated Insoles
- 3 heat settings (no, heat, 100˚F, and 111˚F)
- 5 hours of use per charge
Wireless and remote-controlled without removing footwear
Cold-related injuries are caused by working in low temperatures and high winds, particularly when the skin is wet. Outdoor workers suffer from cold-related injuries each year.
The human body’s natural reaction when exposed to cold environments is to maintain its core temperature. To do so, blood shifts away from less critical body parts including the hands, feet, arms, legs and skin to concentrate in the vital chest and abdomen regions. As a result of the blood shift, the body parts containing less blood face an increased risk of cold-related injuries such as hypothermia (a core body temperature of less than 95°F) and frostbite (frozen skin tissues). If moisture is introduced in addition to cold temperatures, trench foot also becomes a possibility (OSHA).
“Wind chill is the temperature your body feels when air temperature and wind speed are combined. For example, when the air temperature is 40°F, and the wind speed is 35 mph, the effect on the exposed skin is as if the air temperature was 28°F” (OSHA).
Cold Stress is the result of the skin temperature being lowered, ultimately resulting in a reduced core body temperature. Serious health concerns including possible tissue damage and death may occur if the situation is severe (OSHA).
How Risks are Reduced:
The traction between walking and working surfaces and workers' footwear is reduced when the surface is covered with ice or snow. Reduced traction makes walking and working surfaces more slippery increasing the likelihood of falls. Research has shown that the rate of injuries resulting from slips and falls increases as the temperature falls below freezing (Bell, 2000 and Hassi, 2000). The cleats on traction devices can help prevent slipping on icy surfaces and improve surface tractions.
The human body’s natural reaction when exposed to cold environments is to maintain its core temperature. To do so, blood shifts away from less critical body parts including the hands, feet, arms, legs and skin to concentrate in the vital chest and abdomen regions. As a result of the blood shift, the body parts containing less blood face an increased risk of cold-related injuries such as hypothermia (a core body temperature of less than 95°F) and frostbite (frozen skin tissues). If moisture is introduced in addition to cold temperatures, trench foot also becomes a possibility (OSHA). Wearing proper clothing in multiple layers of breathable, warm, thermal insulated clothing will leave very little skin exposed and help maintain core body temperature. In some situations, clothing designed to provide additional protection from water and wind may be needed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and industry and employee groups acknowledge the hazards associated with working in low temperatures and wind. The ability to reduce cold-related injuries by taking precautions such as wearing footwear with adequate traction and warm clothing and utilizing heating devices and breaks for warming up have been documented in government publications, health hazard evaluations and by the research and medical communities.
Effects on Productivity:
Working in a cold environment has been shown to reduce productivity in construction. Protective clothing and equipment such as jackets, hats, gloves, and footwear traction devices will reduce the risk of cold-related injuries and illnesses and provide greater productivity when working in a cold environment.
Engineering controls are always superior to administrative controls, such as a cold stress prevention program, and personal protective equipment, such as gloves and clothing. Engineering solutions to consider include shelters to protect workers from environmental conditions and portable electric fan heaters to warm the work or break area. Whenever possible, shelters with electric heaters inside should be used for warm up breaks when permanent heated structures are not available. Heated vehicle cabs may also be used in place of heated shelters.
Taylor Kingston and Michael R. Cooper - Aria Environmental, Inc.
Bruce Lippy - CPWR
To obtain information, visit YUKON EXTREMES® ZIP-TO-WAIST BIBERALL / ARCTIC QUILT LINED or contact 1-800-833-3118
Fox River Steel-Toe Wick Dry Work Sock
To obtain information, visit Fox River Mills, Inc. or contact 1-800-247-1815