When winter arrives, it's extremely important to recognize the risks and hazards that come with working outside in cold climates. Cold air, water and snow not only draw heat from the body, cold weather also forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Failure to understand or prepare for the winter dangers can pose great risks to those whose jobs keep them outdoors.

With proper planning and training, employers can help keep their outdoor workers safe during winter. Planning for cold weather work, wearing appropriate clothing and being aware of how your body is reacting to the cold are important to preventing conditions like cold stress, which occurs when the body can no longer maintain a normal temperature. Other common problems caused by the cold include hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot.

Protective clothing is the most important way to stay safe and productive when working in the winter elements. Here are some tips for outfitting yourself or your employees for cold weather work.

  • Wear layered clothing. Wearing multiple layers provides better insulation. Take off layers as you get too warm and put them on as it gets colder.
  • If possible, wear thermal insulated coveralls. The coverall design largely eliminates core body heat loss while allowing good range of motion.
  • Take extra clothes in case you get wet. Dry clothing always help keep outdoor workers warm.
  • Wear a hat or hood to help keep your whole body warmer. Wear a hard hat to work? Helmet liners under a hard hat are very effective at preserving neck and head heat.
  • Choose appropriate gloves. Fabric and texture need to be suited to the job, but try to find gloves that allow you to use a liner. Safety gloves are available with Thinsulate(TM) lining, and there are cold weather work gloves that feature fleece on the top of the hand with a rubberized, water-resistant palm.
  • Wear double-layer thermal socks and insulated boots. To avoid slipping on ice, wear winter boots with a strong tread. Spread sand or rock salt on any ice to help footwear grip.
  • Wraparound eye protection can also help preserve body heat. They can also help prevent eyes from drying out due to cold, dry air and wind.

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Meghan Marcus is PR and communications specialist for UniFirst Corporation.

About UniFirst: Headquartered in Wilmington, Mass., UniFirst Corporation (NYSE:UNF) is a North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniform and workwear programs, as well as the delivery of facility service programs. Together with its subsidiaries, the company also provides first aid and safety products, and manages specialized garment programs for the cleanroom and nuclear industries. UniFirst manufactures its own branded workwear, protective clothing, and floorcare products, and with over 225 service locations, 260,000 customer locations, and 12,000 employee Team Partners, the company outfits more than 1.5 million workers each business day. For more information, contact UniFirst at 800.455.7654 or visit www.unifirst.com.