Stay warm, stay safe

January 6, 2008
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Winter is here, and that means cold weather. Whether working at an outdoor construction site or inside a cold, drafty industrial plant, you need to stay warm. Warmth equals comfort. And comfort equals safety.

For all-day comfort, equip yourself with the right gear to regulate body temperature while maintaining your ability to move comfortably. Today, various products with new, technologically advanced fabrics and smarter design features are available to help you do just that.

Clothing tips
  1. Start with the right base layer. Layering is the best approach to staying warm. But the right base layer makes all the difference. Even though it’s cold, you still sweat, and moisture destroys your chances of staying warm. Find a base-layer garment that’s somewhat snug and labeled as “moisture-wicking.” These synthetic fabrics pull sweat off your skin without absorbing it. Moisture then evaporates and your skin stays dry.
  2. In the middle, insulate. Your next clothing layer should provide insulation to trap your body’s radiant heat. Synthetic fabrics like polar fleece trap heat, don’t absorb moisture and remain breathable. Wool is also a great option. But don’t overdo insulation. You want to stay warm, but you don’t want to sweat. If you start to sweat, remove an insulating layer.
  3. Find the right shell. Look for a shell jacket that is both waterproof and breathable. Many manufacturers now use “rip-stop” fabrics that are a cotton-nylon blend. As the name suggests, jackets or pants made of rip-stop won’t rip and resist abrasions to keep you safer on the job. Many shell jackets and pants also come with a waterproof membrane that allows moisture to escape, while keeping wind, rain, sleet and snow out.

Fit for safety
Buy clothes big enough to allow a full range of motion without being baggy. Sleek, form-fitting clothes are the new trend in work wear. They’re less likely to get caught in machinery or snagged while climbing a ladder. Look for a bi-swing back, underarm gussets, articulated elbows and knees, and stretch waistbands. A garment with these features is built with extra fabric around the joints, so it can “extend” as you move, for a full range-of-motion.

You should be able to reach over your head, bend your arms and legs and reach from side to side without having your sleeves or pant legs ride up. This facilitates warmth as well as safety. You’ll never stay warm if your arms are exposed every time you reach or swing a hammer.

Footwear: the final step
For warm feet, start with the right base layer — socks. Merino wool blended or synthetic socks are a must, because they keep your feet dry.

Look for insulated boots. You can find anywhere from 200 to 1,400 grams of insulation. Your working environment and how much you move around determine the appropriate insulation level; just make sure you still have wiggle room for your toes. Another tip: Don’t tie your boots too tight. Tight boots decrease circulation to your feet, making them cold.

Fit is most important, so make sure your boots are the right size and shape for your feet. Always try on boots before buying them, even if you’ve owned the exact same boots before.

Leather boots are a good cold-weather choice because they can endure a lot of punishment, are breathable, and leather conforms to your feet for improved fit and comfort.

Work boots provide stability and support to minimize daily foot fatigue. To further reduce fatigue, try rotating a couple pairs of boots. Materials used in boot construction need time to “bounce back” after a long day on the job. By alternating them, you always have fresh boots for maximum cushioning and shock absorption.

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