How to Protect Your Employees from the Elements
Every company knows that it is important to keep their employees safe and healthy. However, not everyone considers what protecting your employees really means when it comes to weather safety. Being unprepared for extreme cold or hot weather conditions can significantly compromise the health and well being of workers in a matter of minutes. Take the following tips for protecting your employees from the elements to ensure they stay safe during harsh cold and hot weather conditions.
General outerwear tips
Outerwear must comply with work regulations. Employees should not have to worry about their clothing, so they can focus solely on their jobs. The clothing must be comfortable and durable, which means that it can withstand multiple launderings, varying weather conditions, and general wear and tear. Pay attention to materials as well as stitching (sealed seams, double-stitched or triple-stitched seams) to ensure that clothing has added strength and mobility.
Protecting your employees from the elements means choosing outerwear that is flexible, breathable and resistant to both wind and water. Workers will stay warm and dry, and will have full range of motion needed for the tasks at hand.
It is also important to keep in mind that outerwear for high-volume traffic work environments must comply with the American National Standard, because high-visibility safety is key. Look for clothing with reflective material and ANSI certification. Take care to ensure that clothes have layering options while remaining in compliance.
Protection against the cold
Employees working in severe cold weather are susceptible to a number of conditions, including frostbite. They may also have compromised ability to smell, see and feel. Requiring proper dress for the weather ensures that you protect your employees from the elements. Recommend the following tips to your employees.
- Dress in layers to provide better insulation. Keep inner layers tight and outer layers loose to trap heat and keep out the wind.
- Wool, silk and synthetics are preferable over cotton, which loses its insulation value when wet. Choose an inner silk, wool or synthetic layer to keep moisture off the body. Select a synthetic or wool middle layer to offer additional insulation, even when the body is wet. A rain and wind outer layer enables adequate ventilation to avoid overheating.
- Remove layers as body temperature rises to avoid sweating, which can reduce cold protection. Typically, it is more important to prevent excessive sweating than protect against snow or rain.
- Wear a hat and gloves to reduce the amount of heat that escapes through the hands and head. Consider layering thin wool gloves under leather gloves.
- Wear thick socks (preferably wool) and insulated shoes or boots.
- Avoid wearing too many layers — they make sweating more likely and restrict movement, which impairs working capability.
- Keep extra clothing on hand in the event of getting wet and needing to change.
Protection against the heat
It’s just as important to protect against the hot weather as it is the cold weather. Consider the following tips to keep your employees healthy and happy on hot days.
- Employ prevention techniques including drinking water every 15 minutes regardless of thirst, taking regular breaks in the shade, steering clear of caffeine and alcohol, and giving new employees lighter workloads to get them used to working in hot conditions.
- Educate your employees on the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Many people are unaware that heat exposure is hazardous until they are in need of medical help. Heat exhaustion symptoms include nausea, headaches, weakness, thirst, dizziness and excessive sweating. When heat exhaustion is not addressed it can lead to heat stroke, which is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. Heat stroke symptoms including fainting, seizures, confusion and dry, red skin.
Shelters for storm protection or shade
In the event of severe weather (e.g. thunderstorms, hail), it is key to have appropriate shelters for which employees can retreat to safety. These shelters can also be used for employee breaks from the extreme heat or severe cold wind.
In the event of lightning, keep in mind that fully enclosed metal vehicles are also safe. That can include vans, buses, airplanes and construction equipment with enclosed metal cabs. In order to be safe in these vehicles, the windows must be up and workers must not make interior contact with external objects (such as metal door handles) or objects that penetrate from inside to outside.