When thinking of winter in the UK, low temperates, heavy rain and occasional snow spring to mind. If you are wrapped up inside with a blanket and a cup of tea then this is not an issue, but construction workers often endure these harsh conditions throughout the winter months. With last year’s unusually harsh winter, construction workers should start to seriously consider if their workwear is effective at insulating heat. Other than just the feeling of cold, these conditions can be hazardous to your health or even life. Thankfully, a few simple adjustments will help you prevent a bad cold or even hypothermia in extreme situations and survive colder months.
1. Site Workwear
The general idea is to preserve as much heat as possible. There are several fabrics to wear that are particularly effective. Thermal workwear is often a must. It helps with heat loss and at the same time doesn’t limit your range of motions. Wool can also help. Wearing two to three layers is beneficial as it helps blood flow and insulation. The layer closest to the body should draw the sweat away, the middle should be breathable and the outer one must be both water and windproof.
Appropriate head, hand and footwear should be worn at all times as most body heat is lost through the bodies extremities. At all times, protective gloves must be worn. Some workers take them off during work or don’t wear them at all. This, however, can be rather dangerous and even lead to frostbites. The best solution is to try different models and linings and then choose what protects best and is most comfortable to work in. Hand warmers are also beneficial. It is essential to have a pair of warm and high-quality boots. These can be made with extra layers or insoles for additional warmth. Socks also provide an additional layer to keep construction workers warm in winter so be wise when choosing these. It is recommended to wear multiple pairs of thick socks. It is also beneficial to bring more than one pair in case they get damp during the day. Scarves, hats and balaclavas will protect your head and neck. Spare clothing is useful in events of excess precipitation and sweat. All in all, proper site workwear is a crucial way to stay warm on construction sites.
As obvious as it might sound, creams and moisturisers are often neglected. They form a protective barrier on your skin, making frostbite and cold easier to avoid. It also makes it easier to clean skin at the end of the day. Before and after every shift, apply a generous amount of non-greasy moisturiser to your skin.
If you want to stay warm, generate heat by yourself. How? By keeping moving. Don’t stand in one place for too long, shivering and losing heat. This is also why multiple layers of site workwear are so important. When you sweat, it may feel warm for while. However, if you stay still the sweat will eventually make you feel even colder.
4. Enclosing the Site
This tip might not be possible for all construction sites. However, if it is, try enclosing the site at least partially. It may be as simple as using plastic curtains to cover windows and doors. It may not sound like much but it would immensely help preserve warmth and therefore protect the health of workers.
5. Breaks in Warm Areas
Try to organise short breaks in warm areas so the workers don’t stay in cold for long hours. This can include warming stations where hot drinks and heaters are available during breaks. It may also be feasible to schedule the work for the warmest part of the day, depending on the job. If possible, having more employees operating shorter shifts will reduce individual exposure.
All of the above tips will help prevent cold stress illnesses, however, it is beneficial for employers to train workers to recognise symptoms of different illnesses such as hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot. Symptoms can include numbness, reddened skin or skin turning grey or blisters.
Featured image: © Yury Kim