When working in cold environments, you are naturally exposed to cold stress, which can lead to serious implications on your health including the development of hypothermia, frostbite, trenchfoot, and chilblains. Air temperature, wind chill, and exposure to wetness can all contribute towards your exposure to cold stress while at work. Limiting exposed skin and layering up with hi vis clothing are two vital steps that you can take to maintain a warmer internal core temperature, reduce your exposure to cold stress, and help to ensure that you stay seen and visible while hard at work.
When deciding how to layer up with high visibility clothing to work in cold weather, it is important to ensure that the high visibility clothing that you are layering up with is designed to retain insulation, such as those constructed with synthetic, silk, and wool fabrics. Tight fitting clothing can restrict blood flow to your extremities and therefore put you at greater risk for cold stress, which is why OSHA suggests to layer up with a series of loose fitting clothing. Not only that, but tight fitting clothing can be physically restricting and hazardous on the job site.
Layer Up for Cold Weather with High Visibility Clothing
Here are a few more tips that OSHA suggests in limiting your risk of cold stress at work:
- Schedule your more intensive work during the hours that it is forecast to be warmer outside. Keep in mind that air temperature, wind chill, and moisture all contribute towards cold stress at work, so be sure to get the most accurate forecast.
- Take breaks in warm areas to raise your internal temperature and take them frequently.
- Work in a group, so that you are able to monitor each other for exposure to cold stress.
- Stay hydrated by drinking warm and sweet fluids. Pack a thermos, so that it is always at the ready! Refrain from alcoholic and caffeinated beverages that will accelerate the rate at which you will lose body heat. In the same sense, ensure that you are eating well-balanced meals.
- Be prepared for the cold weather that you might be exposed to and bring spare clothing.
Note: These tips have been compiled using resources provided by OSHA and serve to provide generally useful tips. Whether you're a snow plow operator, law enforcement officer, or firefighter, the length that you're exposed to the cold weather, level that you're exposed to the cold weather, and the type of weather that you face will all effect how you have to prepare for the cold weather.
Other Resources on Limiting Exposure Cold Stress at Work:
- Be sure to check out OSHA's Cold Stress Guide here.
- Read the CDC's tips on staying safe during and after a winter storm here.
- Read NIOSH's recommendations for employers to protect workers from cold stress here.
- Check out NIOSH's list of cold related illnesses here.
- View a printable list of Fast Facts on Protecting Yourself from Cold Stress published by NIOSH here.