In the Midwest, people can be complacent about protecting themselves against cold weather until it is TOO cold. Cold weather can cause serious health emergencies to workers who are exposed to the elements. In our region, cold stress can occur when temperatures drop below freezing and the wind speeds increase, causing the body to rapidly lose heat.
What are the types of cold-related illnesses? Here are several cold stress issues to be aware of and watch out for as the temperatures drop:
Cold stress occurs when the skin temperature drops, causing the internal body temperature to decrease as well. This could lead to serious health problems, tissue damage and possibly death.
Hypothermia, is the most common form of cold weather illness, occurs when the body heat is lost quicker than it can be replaced, meaning the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. This can occur at temperatures above 40°F if a person becomes chilled from sweat, rain or submersion in cold water.
Frostbite is caused by the freezing of the skin and its underlying tissues. The lower the temperature drops, the more quickly frostbite can occur. Frostbite most commonly affects the extremities, specifically the feet and hands. In severe cases, amputation may be required.
Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, is caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold. Surprisingly, trench foot can occur at temperatures as high as 60°F if the feet are constantly wet. To prevent heat loss, the body constricts the blood vessels to stop circulation to the feet. This causes the skin tissue to begin to die because of the lack of oxygen and nutrients needed and the buildup of toxic products.
Chilblains are caused by repeated exposure of the skin to temperatures just above freezing all the way up to 60°F. This exposure to the cold causes damage to the capillary beds in the skin. This damage is permanent and the redness and itching will return with additional exposure to the cold. This typically occurs on ears, cheeks, fingers and toes.
Now that you see the potential ailments brought on by the cold weather, how do you protect yourself and your employees? The main way to protect yourself is by wearing the proper cold weather clothing. We have a wide range of products in our inventory that will help insulate you from the cold weather and cold stress.
Sweatshirts are a great option in our region for cold weather protection since we don’t get the frigid cold and wind chill as our northern neighbors. We typically do not need coats until the wind chill enters the single digits.
PIP offers a great sweatshirt that we recommend to our customers. It is an ANSI, Class 3, quarter-zip pullover sweatshirt with a black bottom. It is reflective and perfect for construction, survey crews, shipyards, utilities and anywhere that high visibility is needed. Class 3 apparel is intended for workers that require the highest level of visibility, have high task loads and need to be visible throughout a full range of body motions.
The hands are one of the first places where people will experience the cold weather. Superior Glove offers a great glove perfect for those working in the cold. The Endura Deluxe Winter Goat-Grain Driver with WaterStop™/Oilbloc™ and Double Weight Thinsulate™ Liner is double the weight of the lining in their standard winter driver gloves. Even though the fingers are fully sock lined, these gloves remain very dexterous.
Superior Glove uses a special machine that tests each glove, bringing down the temperature to test their cold weather capability. They stamp each glove with its temperature rating, which helps you easily select the correct glove for your weather.
Hats/Protective Head Gear
PIP offers several great cold weather head protection options that are great for cold weather work conditions such as construction, wood work, oil drilling, maintenance, refineries and much more. The PIP 1-Layer Fleece Winter Liner is perfect for under a hard hat or helmet to keep the neck, shoulders and ears warm and protected from the wind.
The PIP Rib Knit Hard Hat Tube Liner is the perfect option to keep the ears and neck warm and protected from the wind. It is designed to fit over hard hats and stretched to fit snugly over most hard hat styles.
We can also do custom logoing on sweatshirts, hats and other cold weather items, as well as custom size selection. We will bring samples in various sizes to your team to try on ensuring each employee is ordering the correct size, saving time on returns.
Interested in learning more about cold weather protection or placing an order? Contact your French Gerleman Account Manager or contact us to learn more.
United States Department of Labor-OSHA Cold Stress Guide