UniFirst Offers Tips to Protecting Workers from Winter ‘Cold Stress’
WILMINGTON, MA — Facility service program and uniform provider UniFirst recently released tips on using a managed uniform program to keep employees safe during the current, especially cold winter season.
With areas of the country currently experiencing unusually frigid weather and winter storms and with typically cold areas seeing worse-than-usual storms, including the recent bomb cyclone, UniFirst took the opportunity to remind service companies to ensure employees working in these extreme-cold conditions are prepared.
UniFirst reminds companies that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found those working in “extreme cold, near freezing temperatures, wet conditions, and wind chill” are at risk for “cold stress,” which occurs when skin temperature plummets leading to decreases in body temperature.
“When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, along with the potential for permanent tissue damage and even death,” UniFirst explains. “The most common types of cold stress include hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.”
Restoration professionals working in areas without power or where heating systems have been damaged are especially at risk. Also at higher risk, UniFirst reports are those “workers [who] return to work after a long absence or for others who are new to the job, as their bodies may not be as accustomed to the weather conditions.”
The company also reminds companies that those in above-freezing climates are still at risk for cold stress due to “wind-chill effect” — higher wind speeds lowering core body temperature quickly — as well as wet areas, which foments body heat loss.
UniFirst provided the following tips to help avoid cold stress in employees:
- Wear at least three layers of loose-fitting clothing, designed with the appropriate types of fabrics, as proper layering provides improved insulation from the elements.
- Select garments close to the body that are made with “breathable” fabrics, such as moisture-wicking synthetics, to help workers stay dry and comfortable.
- Choose outer garments that are insulated but do not have much added bulk that could interfere with worker mobility.
- Consider outerwear that is water repellent to aid worker protection from rain, sleet, or snow.
- Select outer garments that also have built-in ventilation to help prevent excessive sweating and keep workers dry.
- Wear a hat or hood to help keep the entire body stay warm; hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes.
- Use a knit mask to cover and help protect the face and mouth. Wraparound eye protection can also help preserve body heat and prevent eyes from drying out due to cold.
- Use insulated gloves to protect the hands.
- Wear double-layer thermal socks and insulated, waterproof footwear.
- Ensure workers take regular breaks and, when possible, warm up indoors with hot beverages (no alcohol) to increase body temperature.
Adam Soreff, director of marketing and communications at UniFirst, says, “A managed workwear program can take the worry out of ensuring workers are properly dressed for the elements during the winter season, helping defend them from cold stress and keeping them on the job, happy, and productive.”