What to Look for in PPE Solutions to Combat Cold Weather

It’s important to equip workers with PPE designed to keep them both safe and warm.

Colder temperatures mean new challenges for workers to combat while on the jobsite. Although it’s a necessity that winter workwear keeps laborers warm, they need much more from their personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure they can get the job done safely and comfortably. Whether it’s to avoid trips and falls on slick surfaces or protect against dangers like electric arc flash, it’s important to equip workers with PPE designed to keep them both safe and warm.  

Below are some things to look for in PPE solutions when outfitting employees for cold weather jobsites.

  • Slip resistance: Frigid temperatures may bring snow and ice, so it’s important to look for footwear that delivers best-in-class slip resistance with exceptional grip and durability to keep workers stable on slippery surfaces. The outsole should be engineered to withstand extreme temperatures. Additional features to look for include tri-directional traction lugs to improve grip on challenging terrain, a defined heel breast to enhance downhill braking control or rubber outsoles proven to grip ice to provide slip resistance in extreme ice conditions.  
  • Warmth: There are many ways to stay warm on the jobsite but not all of them are conducive to other aspects of safety and efficiency. For example, a worker might wear multiple layers of clothing to stay warm but sacrifice flexibility and comfort. In the case of items like gloves, wearing something bulky may even limit one’s ability to do the job. That’s why it’s important to find PPE made with the right materials. A job that requires flexibility in cold environments will call for thinner insulating material that keeps workers warm but doesn’t limit movement. Other technologies such as outer-shell anti-wind treatments should also be considered as ways to supplement the primary PPE solution.
  • Durability: Whether it’s a construction site or a railroad car, workers are moving around frequently, so durable PPE materials are essential. Flimsy zippers mean a higher chance of exposure to the elements, so look for hardwearing zippers and components to avoid malfunctioning jackets on the jobsite. Choose work boots that have premium leather and direct-attach or welt construction for optimized durability and longevity. Choosing durable gear will also increase the longevity of built-in safety features.
  • Other safety features: While staying warm is often top of mind in cold weather environments, it shouldn’t be the only consideration. Cold jobsites often include other hazards such as electrical arc flash or flashfire and it’s critical to ensure workers are protected against all of them, not just the cold.
  • Comfort: While on the job, workers need to comfortably move around without restriction. Although their PPE must be durable, it also needs to be flexible and move with the wearer, so opt for features such as jackets with 360-degree shoulder pleats and ensure work boots fit properly for optimal comfort. 
  • Details: Small details typically make the biggest difference. Choose jackets that feature knitted storm cuffs in the sleeves and an elasticized waist to help keep the cold from sneaking in. A windproof membrane adds additional protection from the howling wind that winter typically brings with it. Also, look for outerwear in a breathable material to aid in circulation and help avoid sweating, which could lead to feeling damp in the cold air. Finally, let’s not overlook the importance of warm socks. Go with a pair lined with wool to wick moisture away, keeping feet warm and dry throughout the day.

While it’s impossible to avoid cold weather in many regions, it’s not impossible to outfit your workers with PPE solutions that will keep them comfortable and safe so they can get their jobs done right. Remember to look for the small details and to opt for PPE purpose-built for the work environment.

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