There’s a joke in many parts of North America, that there are two seasons, construction and winter. The reality is that many construction workers still work outside all through the cold season. Repairs need to get done, no matter what the weather is. Protecting your skin in the winter is just as important as in the summer. You just need different gear, such as face masks and gloves.
What Are Some Concerns in the Cold Weather?
The cold temperatures are a big concern for outdoor workers. Hypothermia and frostbite risks increase once the temperature drops to -10C or 14F. At -28C or -18.4F, it only takes 30 minutes for exposed skin to freeze. Lower temperatures aren’t just bad for the skin, either. The lower the temperature, the more discomfort causes workers to get distracted. For construction workers, a distraction could be the difference between a serious accident or not.
Cold temperatures are just one concern. Humidity, while lower in the winter, can make you feel colder by making you feel wet. Dampness adds to the cold feelings, making you even more uncomfortable. Waterproof gear can help you stay dry, but when you’re working in damp conditions, you need to take care of yourself and stay warm.
Ironically, when you work harder to maintain your body temperature, physical activity will help keep you warm, but it will also make you sweat, which means your clothing gets damp.
What Preventative Gear Should You Consider?
Obviously, you want winter clothing that protects you from the cold. Layers are better than one big coat because you can adjust for different conditions more effectively. As a construction worker, you need to be able to move about freely without getting your clothes caught in your equipment. Keep extra gear on hand in case socks or gloves get wet.
Your extremities will get colder faster than the rest of your body. Make sure to wear gloves to keep your fingers warm. Warm socks to keep your feet warm, plus waterproof boots help you stay comfortable. Cover your ears and face to prevent heat loss from your body.
Although the UV rays aren’t as strong in the winter, you should use protective gear to protect your face. UV face masks protect your skin against sunburn and windburn. You may even want to use a light sunscreen around your eyes or wear sunglasses when the sun is very bright.
How Can You Take Care of Yourself During Cold Weather Work?
In addition to wearing protective gear through the winter, you should also make sure to eat healthily and make sure to provide your body with enough fuel to work effectively in cold environments. You may even need to increase your liquid intake to prevent dehydration. Don’t have too much caffeine, because it acts as a diuretic, increasing your urine production which contributes to dehydration.
Educate yourself about the effects of cold weather to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite. Know emergency procedures and first aid in case of an injury. Use a buddy system when working in the cold to have peers who can watch for signs of hypothermia.
Take breaks in winter weather to warm up periodically. When you do eat or drink, try to have something warm that increases your inner temperature and makes you feel comfortable. Don’t forget to include the wind in your temperature calculations. It will feel colder as the wind increases. Know the temperature at which you should stop working. This is generally around -45F, but if there is a wind, it could be sooner.