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A Chill is in the Air

Like it or not, winter has pretty much arrived. At Klein Tools’ headquarters in Chicago, we saw our first snowfall this week, followed by a nasty dip in temperatures (wind chills in the 10s?!).

I’ll admit, I write these blog posts from the comfort of my cube in a climate-controlled office building, but I can empathize with anyone who has to work outside in this kind of weather. So, even though the REALLY cold weather is yet to come, it’s never too early to be reminded of how to stay safe in these kinds of temperatures.

Both OSHA and the CDC have a good list of recommendations for people who work outside in cold conditions. Many of these tips are simply common sense, but they are important to follow to avoid serious cold-related injuries like hypothermia and frost bite:

  1. Wear appropriate clothing

    Generally speaking, this means layering, so how exactly do you layer your clothes?

    • A base layer – think long underwear or any other moisture-wicking (NOT cotton) shirt. This layer is meant to pull sweat away from your body and help you avoid things like hypothermia.
    • A mid (insulating) layer – sweaters, fleece pullovers, or something like this Klein Tools fleece-lined work shirt can serve as a mid-layer.
    • An outer (shell) layer – This layer is ideally waterproof and wind resistant.

    Layering also allows you to add or remove clothes as the temperature changes. Just make sure your layers are slightly loose fitting.

  2. Protect ears, face, hands, and feet.

    This kind of goes along with wearing appropriate clothing:

    • Wearing a hat is important (and not a baseball cap). Hats reduce the amount of heat that escapes from your head and will in turn keep your whole body warmer.
    • Protect hands with gloves like these lined Deerskin Work Gloves. It’s also important to keep hands dry, so consider waterproof gloves.
    • Ears and face protection come in a variety of forms. There are even some options that are designed to work with hard hats. Check them out here.
    • You’d be wise to invest in some sturdy, waterproof work boots to protect your feet from things like Trench Foot. (It’s not a long term solution, but here is one quick fix (scroll down to #16) to keeping your feet dry.)
  3. Drink warm, sweet drinks and eat warm, high-calorie foods.

    Your body needs the extra calories for energy, not only to do the work, but also to keep your body warm. All that extra exertion can also lead you to become dehydrated, so avoid filling your thermos or mug with caffeinated drinks (like coffee and tea) and alcohol.

  4. Try to work during the warmest time of day.
  5. Take frequent short breaks. Preferably in a warm location to allow the body to warm up.
  6. Work in pairs or more. Keep an eye on each other for symptoms of hypothermia and frost bite.
  7. Working outside in extreme temperatures (hot or cold) is no joke, and being prepared to handle it is not only smart, but good ole common sense.