Worker safety is a priority all year long, but winter presents its own obstacles involving PPE. Here are some considerations when outfitting workers.
Cold weather uniforms and outerwear can play an important role in worker safety during harsh conditions. While OSHA doesn’t have a specific standard that covers these conditions, it’s important to provide employees with a working environment that is free of recognized hazards. Winter weather-related hazards could cause serious physical harm to your workers, so you may want to consider investing in uniforms that help keep them safe and allow them to work freely.
How Winter Conditions Affect Worker Safety
The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides information on the hazards of cold stress, as well as considerations in selecting and using cold weather uniforms. Winter storms can produce many hazards, including:
- Being struck by falling objects like icicles, tree limbs or utility poles
- Dehydration, hypothermia and frostbite
- Exhaustion from strenuous activity
- Back injuries or heart attack while removing snow
- Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
- Electrocution from downed power lines and downed objects in contact with power lines
- Falls from snow removal on roofs, while working in aerial lifts or on ladders
- Lacerations or amputations from unguarded or improperly operated chainsaws and power tools, and improperly attempting to clear jams in snow blowers
OSHA also offers an online resource for winter weather preparedness to help you assess potential cold weather risks and to help you protect your workers. The guidance addresses topics such as cold stress; work scheduling to limit exposure; and considerations to keep in mind when selecting winter-appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as choosing clothing that insulates and allows for movement.
Other Considerations When Outfitting Employees
NFPA70E Standard for Electrical Safety In the Workplace in article 130.7 requires “Garments worn as outer layers over arc-rated clothing, such as jackets or rain wear, shall also be from arc-rated material.” The standard also states, “Meltable fibers such as acetate, nylon, polyester, polypropylene and spandex shall not be permitted in fabric under layers next to the skin.”
Protecting workers during severe winter weather can be a daunting task. Keep OSHA and CDC’s guidance in mind when outfitting your employees.