In case you weren’t aware, it is winter. Looking out my window in west Michigan, it looks more like early spring, but it is still chillingly cold, annoyingly wet, and January still has a week to go. Winter can be a slow time for trade workers, and most days can be spent in the comfort. However, farmers, loggers, builders, excavators, and many others have to spend many days outside in harsh conditions. Trekking through mud, snow, and bitter wind may be a requirement. The many hours working in cold, damp weather can be especially hard on the body. All individuals, regardless of health or physical ability, should equip themselves to handle whatever winter may throw their way.

One of the easiest and most important things to do is wear appropriate clothing and personal protection equipment. Remember in elementary school when your mother would yell at you to put a coat on? That advice is no less pertinent in adulthood. In addition to coats, there are many other items that we should be putting on each time we go out on a cold winter day. OSHA certainly doesn’t hold the same weight as a mother’s stern warning, but they do offer some good advice on how to protect yourself and get the most out of your workday. Here are a few of their guidelines. To see the entire article, which also contains great information about how bodies react to cold, recognizing the signs of hypothermia, and how to treat frostbite, click HERE.

  • Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation. Do not wear tight fitting clothing.
  • An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body.
  • A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
  • An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
  • Wear a hat or hood to help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
  • Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth (if needed).
  • Use insulated gloves to protect the hands (water resistant if necessary).
  • Wear insulated and waterproof boots (or other footwear).

Staying warm, dry, and protected from the elements is just one winter difficulty to hurdle. The environment around a worksite can change significantly when what was once dry solid ground is now covered with ice and snow, or turned to mud. Workers with mobility impairments should take extra precaution by making sure they have appropriate traction between them and the ground. For some, this may mean a good pair of winter boots. For others, it may mean adding high traction tires to a golf cart or electric wheel chair. Mobility aids, such as walkers and canes should have tips that will work well in snow and ice.

There are many other ways to make working in cold weather easier. We encourage you to check out the many assistive technology tools available on www.disabilityworktools.com, such as heated gloves, heated hoses, and heated waterers. If you have a need that you don’t think is addressed with a tool on the website, please give us a call.