Be prepared for biting winds, blinding snow and sub-zero temperatures by selecting proper winter work clothes.
If you’ve ever worked outside during winter, you know it can be a beast. Biting winds, blinding snow and sub-zero temperatures add new risks to your workday. While those working outdoors in winter weather or working in cold environments for extended periods are most at risk, the effects of cold stress can take anyone down. Proper winter work clothes are vital for safety and efficiency while on the job.
The body reacts to cold stress in a logical, systematic manner. As conditions worsen, the body shifts into survival mode by redirecting warmth and blood flow to blood vessels in the most critical area – the body’s core. Extremities like the hands and feet are the first affected areas. Eventually, the body lowers all skin temperature and internal body temperature.
Winter Work Clothes and Safety
In order to protect your body from the elements, it is important to understand what needs protection and how to protect it. Depending on the severity of the elements and the task at hand, it may be tricky to find the right balance between dexterity, comfort, and flexibility to suit your needs.
It is also important to select all the components of winter work clothes, including a jacket, work pants, socks, gloves, etc. Regardless of what you choose to roll with, there are signs of cold stress that are vital to look out for.
Keep an Eye on Hands and Feet
This is where hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot will appear first. Hand warmers, toe warmers and insulated insoles are essential. If any of the symptoms listed below are present, get into a warm location, remove wet winter work clothing and drink something warm until medical help arrives.
Hypothermia: As body heat is lost, the body can no longer sustain its internal temperature. In order of increasing severity, symptoms start with shivering (which ends when exposure continues), bluish skin, slurred speech, loss of coordination, confusion, disorientation, inability to walk or stand, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing, loss of consciousness and potentially death.
Frostbite: Freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Frostbite typically affects the extremities, particularly the feet and hands. Symptoms include reddened skin with gray/white patches, numbness, tingling/stinging, affected skin feels firm or hard, blue waxy skin and skin blisters.
Trench Foot: Reduced circulation and skin death in the foot, caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold temperatures. Symptoms include redness of the skin, swelling, numbness and blisters.
Related: 3M Thinsulate is great for lightweight gloves to stay warm. Check out our full guide on how to select your next pair of Thinsulate gloves here. For more general information about winter work gloves/freezer gloves and what might be best for your own warmth and safety, read our recently released winter work gloves selection guide.
Wear Insulating Outdoor Winter Work Clothes
If layering, use these guidelines when choosing insulating outdoor workwear:
Inner layer: moisture-wicking wool, silk or synthetic
Middle layer: insulating wool or synthetic
Outer layer: rain- and windproof outwear, preferably with ventilation
Have a Cold Stress Prevention Plan in Place
Every employer with an outdoor cold-weather work environment should have a cold stress prevention plan.
Supervisors should know the signs and symptoms of cold-related illnesses, as well as the proper response to cold stress
Remind all workers of cold stress risks and signs during daily or weekly safety briefings
Provide comprehensive cold stress training and a break area for workers with heaters and windbreaks
Enclose the work area when possible
Encourage your crews to wear insulated, waterproof footwear and keep a dry change of winter work clothing nearby
Related: For more cold stress tips, read our post on cold stress safety here.
Winter Work Clothes Available from Wesco Safety
This jacket can be worn in eight different configurations and has pockets everywhere, making it the ultimate jacket for any workplace that requires high-visibility clothing. The outer shell is constructed of lightweight, water-resistant polyurethane-coated polyester, while the inner shell is constructed of polyester fleece.
Both the inner liner and outer shell are high-visibility yellow with ANSI-certified striping. Both the inner liner and outer shell can be worn alone, or the sleeves can be removed to make a Class 2 vest. The concealed detachable hood works with both the shell and liner. Jacket features outside zipper pockets, an inside breast pocket, a cell phone pocket, a clear ID holder pocket and a pen/pencil sleeve pocket.
8 varieties of wearing options include the basic, fully lined Class 3 waterproof jacket, Class 2 vest, the hi-vis Class 3 liner alone, or four more options that can be created depending on the days weather
Warm fleece collar with elastic ribbed waist, and wrist keep out the cold and water
Both the jacket and liner offer fully lined and removable sleeves
Both jacket and liner meet ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 Class 3, Type R standard
With bright polyester sweatshirts your workforce will not only stand out, but also stay warm, when working in brisk outdoor conditions. Clothing features one horizontal stripe, two vertical stripes and two stripes on the sleeves. All stripes measure 2" and are reflective.
Black fabric on the elastic wrists and the two hand warmer pockets hides dirt where it matters most. Hoodie features a zipper closure and drawstring. Meets ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 Class 3 standard.
For a high-quality sweatshirt in outdoor conditions, look no further. These are a black insulated polyester/cotton blend that feature a zipper closure and 2 front pockets. The hood and quilted sleeves offer amazing warmth and comfort. Part of the Sync System™ can be worn on its own or can zip into the Icon and Icon LTE as a liner as well.
Be seen and warm, day and night with this OccuNomix rib knit acrylic beanie with three bands of reflective thread for increased visibility. Features interior brushed, anti-pilling fleece for comfort and full 360° ear and forehead coverage. The ergonomic shape helps to protect the head and ears from cold.
Our Safety Support Team is always available to discuss your cold weather workplace applications and to help you choose the right winter work clothing to keep your workforce warm and protected.