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December 28, 2020
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PPE as a Preventative Measure

According to OSHA, “Protective clothing is recommended for work at or below 4 degrees Celsius or below 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit.”

An extra benefit of providing appropriate winter gear is that it helps improve performance and productivity.

Wearing the proper PPE is one of the primary preventative measures to protect workers in cold environments.

Parkas with removable fleece linings, balaclavas that shape shift from a full-face mask to a neck gaiter and battery-powered heated jackets are at the top of the winter PPE checklist because their multi-functional designs allow workers to control their comfort based on changing weather conditions and activity levels.

But winter work gloves, which are critical to performing tasks, play a critical role in preventing cold stress, including frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite, one of the most common injuries from cold exposure, can cause permanent damage to hands or fingers, including amputation.

Hypothermia, which means “low heat,” occurs when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced, and the body temperature drops to below 95 degrees.

Shivering is a symptom, followed by more serious symptoms of memory loss, slurred speech and even death if body temperature drops to 78 degrees.

Powerful Tools for Your Cold Stress Toolbox

One of the best types of hand protection, especially in sub-zero temperatures, are mittens.

Mittens tend to be warmer than gloves because your fingers generate more heat when they’re not separated by fabric, as is the case with gloves.

Unfortunately, mittens can be heavy-handed and clumsy, compromising dexterity, which is a must-have requirement for most workers.

Thus, mittens aren’t typically a practical safety solution for most industrial workers, but they are often worn in pleasure pursuits like skiing, snowboarding or hiking in frigid temperatures.

When specifying a winter glove for your safety program, make sure it has:

  • A water-repellant outer coating or material that provides water resistance and wind repellence

  • An insulating liner that traps air for warmth and offers moisture-wicking capabilities

  • Features that promote comfort and a good fit

Outer Coatings to Resist Water

It is important to understand the differences among water-resistant gloves, water-repellant gloves and waterproof gloves.

This is especially important in winter months, when exposure to sleet, rain and snow can make for a miserable workday if not properly protected.

Both “water-resistant” and “waterproof” designate the degree to which rain is blocked from penetrating the glove.

Water-repellant refers to the extra surface coating that improves any glove’s performance, including waterproof gloves.

Water-resistant gloves resist the penetration of water but not entirely.

This is considered the lowest level of water protection. While a water-resistant glove won’t keep your hands from getting wet forever, it takes longer for water to seep in. Water-resistance is a natural quality of the glove fabric itself.

The most common fabrics that can be called water resistant are nylon and polyester, and their water resistance can be credited to how tightly they are woven.

The next step up is water-repellant gloves. They are not easily penetrated by water because of their specially treated surface coating that repels water. However, coatings and treatments wear off over time becoming less effective.

A waterproof glove is impervious to water, acting as a waterproof barrier to keep rain, sleet and snow from penetrating the glove. It offers the highest level of protection from water.


Comfort and Good Fit Improve Compliance

Your winter glove should fit your hand properly as tight gloves can compromise circulation and increase sweating, which makes your hands colder, not to mention uncomfortable.

Poorly fitted gloves reduce dexterity and grip strength. Gloves that are too loose can get caught in machinery and are just as uncomfortable as gloves that are too tight.

Make sure the winter glove you choose for your safety program is comfortable and is offered in a variety of sizes to fit workers’ hands.

Your winter glove should also have a good cuff that can fit over your jacket sleeve.

An extended gauntlet cuff with hook and loop closure offers additional protection to keep snow from seeping into your glove.

Part Two of Three. See Part One here.

Written by Mary Padron, Dec. 1, 2020,



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Safety Tip of the Week is edited by Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg and published each Monday by Grain Journal, Decatur, IL

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