Using ANSI/ISEA 201-2012 for Cold Protection

Employers are responsible for keeping workers protected on the job, but sometimes external influences such as unpredictable weather conditions can impede even the best practices. Now, the American National Standard for Classification of Insulating Apparel Used in Cold Work Environments (ANSI/ISEA 201-2012) can help employers and site managers offer guidance to help keep employees protected at work. The new ANSI/ISEA 201-2012 standard provides parameters whereby cold weather clothing can be measured, certified, and specified, so employees can choose the right parkas, coveralls, vests, and pants for their work environment.

A useful Infographic about the standard is available here.

ANSI/ISEA 201-2012 describes:

  • A consistent and specific method of rating insulated garments for intrinsic insulation values, otherwise known as clo units. This is important because previously there has not been a method used in the industry today that allows someone to determine a garment's level of warmth, which is imperative for keeping the wearer comfortable.
  • Six insulative performance categories and a temperature rating system. Think of clo units as analogous to R value in your home insulation. The amount of thermal resistance is important to determine performance category.
  • Four durability classes based on retention of insulation properties as a function of the number of manufacturer-specified cleaning cycles. This standard touches on how long a garment holds up under expected laundering regiments. Some garments are not as warm or comfortable after multiple cleanings.
  • Certification requirements
  • Care labeling and specific marking. Wearers know what they are buying based on the information printed on labels and markings to ensure they purchase the right apparel for the appropriate cold environment.

While safety managers are in charge of protecting workers by outfitting them properly, for years they have been working by trial and error with no overarching procedure in place to offer guidance and ensure they select clothing that is warm enough for the environment. Today, the ANSI/ISEA-201 standard serves as a valuable tool for the industry by educating employers on their workers' environmental exposure to cold and helping them to better assess how these needs translate to activity levels in order to better specify the right garments to meet workers' conditions across the board -– be it a job site in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Boston, or beyond.

OSHA 3156
Another useful resource is OSHA 3156, which lists steps that safety managers can take to protect their workers:

  • Recognize conditions that can lead to potential cold-induced injuries
  • Learn the symptoms of cold-induced injuries
  • Understand what to do to help an injured worker
  • Train the workforce about cold-induced injuries
  • Choose appropriate clothes for cold, wet, and windy conditions. Layer clothing to adjust to temperatures
  • Take frequent breaks in warm shelter
  • Avoid fatigue; energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • Work in pairs.
  • Drink warm, sweet beverages and avoid caffeine

Pertinent information regarding OSHA 3156 can be found at this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Ken Cox is a Senior Technical Service Specialist in the 3M Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division. Cox has worked at 3M (St. Paul, Minn.) for 37 years, of which he has spent 26 years in the non-wovens Insulation Products related field. In this capacity, Cox leads Tech Service initiatives supporting the 3M Performance Safety Materials Business thermal insulation products portfolio. He has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.). He is currently a member of both the American Apparel and Footwear Association and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists.

Posted by Ken Cox on Aug 16, 2012


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