10 Essential Items Every Carpenter Should Have When Working in the Cold and Snow
Carpenters are often concerned more about how the weather affects the wood than how it affects them, but harsh weather is not to be taken lightly by the worker wielding a saw. When you're handling heavy machinery in sub-zero temps and aren't wearing the proper gear, you risk reduced dexterity, numbness and pain—all symptoms that could put you in danger when you're working with sharp objects. Those big machines take up a lot of space and, for many woodworkers, that means spending a fair amount of time working in the shed, garage or outdoors. Be sure that you have the items from the following list to keep you safe, dexterous and productive when temperatures are low.
A pair of warm work gloves. A carpenter's best, most called-to-action tools aren't his circular saw, tape measure, or hammer. They're his hands. Smart, hands-on workers need to invest in a good pair of high-quality carpentry gloves that are three things simultaneously: warm, flexible, and protective. Look for a pair that has extra insulation and protective pads on the fingers and palms to keep you safe from cold shock, frostbite and injury. Gloves that let you use your phone and other electronics will help reduce the temptation to remove them, effectively keeping hands even warmer.
A high-tech hot beverage cup. One of the simplest ways you can quickly warm the body and the hands is by sipping or holding a hot cup of liquid. Whether it's a fresh-brewed cup of coffee, some hot chocolate, or herbal tea, always carry a warm beverage that helps you maintain a safe body temperature. Look for cups and mugs that have double-wall, vacuum-insulated designs to keep hot drinks hotter for longer.
A face mask that won't affect vision. The face mask is one very fundamental but often-overlooked piece of outdoor apparel for those who work in the cold. Not only do the right masks or balaclavas help to seal out cold on one of your body's most vulnerable and exposed areas, but they also help prevent your respiratory passageways from becoming dry, which can lead to pain and coughing due to breathing in cold, dry air.
A pair of ultra-warm coveralls. Ditch your typical carpenter overalls for a pair of performance-grade carpentry coveralls that pack in the warmth. These are great second layers for the agile worker who does a lot of moving around, as they eliminate any vulnerable openings or gaps and ensure that more parts of your body are sealed off from the bitter cold. The right coveralls will be made with the carpenter in mind, with tool loops and extra pockets to stash all the small tools you reach for more than others.
A reliable weather app. Don't dismiss the cold even in mild temps - you may be at risk for hypothermia, even in temps as high as 50°F. Your level of risk depends on how cold it is, how cold it feels (know the wind chill factor) and how long you plan to be outside. You might be at a high risk for developing frostbite even if temperatures are hovering around 32°F when the wind is strong enough. Monitor the temperature and wind chill closely with a reliable weather app on your phone or tablet.
A cold weather emergency kit. In the event that you or one of your coworkers experiences symptoms of cold shock, such as hypothermia or frostbite, you should be prepared with a cold weather emergency kit. It should contain a warm wool blanket, a first aid kit, and water. If you do a fair amount of driving from work site to work site in the winter, be sure your truck is equipped with a winter vehicle emergency kit.
A portable heater and shelter. To avoid cold shock in very frigid weather, you need to be able to take frequent short breaks from the cold. Often, if you're working on construction sites or in-progress environments, there's no easy and warm place to retreat. Create a temporary "break room" with a portable electric heater and a temporary shelter to trap the heat. Just make sure you use a tent heater to reduce the risk of fire.
A set of single-use hand warmers. Another great accessory for your truck or cold-weather emergency kit, the single-use hand warmer provides an instant boost of warmth to quickly torch your hands, feet and other parts of the body. The warmers are activated by breaking the package, are usually fully heated up within 15 or 30 minutes, and can last all day.
Warm, well-fitting boots. It can be a challenge for carpenters who work in extreme environments to find safe, comfortable work boots that just so happen to be warm, too. The difference between winter-ready carpentry boots and those used the rest of the year is that the former should be waterproof and provide extra insulation. When all you can think about is how cold your feet are, you aren't thinking about the job at hand.
A set of thermal base layers. Though not as vital as your outer layers, your base layers can make a massive difference when the weather is nasty. These are the thin, moisture-wicking garments you wear closest to your skin, otherwise known as thermal or long underwear. They act like extra layers of skin to seal out wind and cold while also helping mitigate and evaporate sweat, keeping you dry.
Your Body Relies on Your Safety at Work
As an all-season carpenter, it's extremely important that you pay close attention to the weather and do everything you can do to avoid frostbite, hypothermia, and other cold-related conditions. Remember that your most expensive and important tools are the parts of your body—fingers, toes and back, among others—so you have to do everything you can to keep them safe while on the job. Just like each project, days working in the cold require a little bit of preparation for safety and success.
Natalie Bucsko is a Marketing Communications Specialist with RefrigiWear.
Posted on Mar 04, 2019