Whether you’re de-icing a plane in Chicago, or you’re a snow blower in upstate New York, or a commercial fisherman in Alaska or Canada, all outdoor workers must be aware of the risks and dangers associated with cold weather. One winter culprit is frostbite, which can seriously damage workers’ hands and fingers within five minutes in subzero temperatures. Wearing proper winter gloves is one preventative measure that can help outdoor workers keep their hands warm and safe from the perils of winter weather.

Frostbite can leave its mark forever

According to the National Safety Council, frostbite is “the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin.” Frostbite is not pretty and can cause permanent damage to a workers’ hands or fingers, including amputation. As a cold injury to the skin, frostbite damages fingers and hands similar to the way burns do. It causes discoloration, swelling, numbness and a prickling sensation, blisters, and in severe cases, tissue death, which is called necrosis.

It can appear white and waxy on the affected areas, or in severe cases, the skin and deeper tissues may become gangrenous, which turns the skin into an inky black or green color as the tissue dies. Frostbite is worse in areas of the body that have restricted blood flow, such as the fingertips.

WebMD, says, “Frostbite is a treatable but potentially serious condition that affects the skin. It happens when a body part isn't properly covered when you’re outside in freezing temperatures.”

Key features

One of the best types of hand protection to keep hands warm in the winter are mittens. Unfortunately, mittens don’t allow for dexterous hand movements, so this type of glove is typically not a practical safety solution for the outdoor worker. However, a good winter work glove is a powerful tool in your safety program and cold prevention efforts.

Three key features of a good winter work glove include:

  • 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
  • Comfort and a good fit

Insulation in winter gloves

Many PPE manufacturers offer gloves with 3M™ Thinsulate™ Insulation to help keep you warm when it’s cold outside. The unique microfibers that make up Thinsulate help trap body heat, while allowing moisture to escape. The material is a matted piece of insulation that allows manufacturers to remove the bulk out of gloves, thus improving dexterity, which is always an important feature of a good work glove. 

Other insulating materials used in winter work gloves include thermal liners, quad layers, 100 gram micro fleece liner, 7 gauge acrylic terry liners and inner shells, acrylic thermal liners, fleece, and more. The choice of liners is dependent upon the temperature outside; the intended application of the glove; and the comfort, fit, and feel required of the glove.

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 creeping into your glove.

Different types of winter gloves

The marketplace has a wide selection of winter work gloves to meet a variety of jobsite applications. In addition to helping you combat the cold in mild and extreme conditions, winter work gloves often serve other protective functions, including:

  • High visibility protection
  • Cut protection
  • Impact protection
  • Abrasion protection
  • Waterproof insulated protection
  • Extreme condition insulated protection
  • Gripping capabilities in wet and dry applications

Hands are precious

Our hands are truly amazing. They are capable of a wide variety of functions, including fine motor movements for delicate tasks and gross motor movements to pick up large objects or perform heavy labor.

According to Healthline.com, “The complex abilities of the hand are part of what make humans unique. Only humans have the ability to bring our thumbs across the hand to connect with our ring and pinkie fingers. This ability provides us with the dexterity to use tools. It also gives us a forceful grip. . . . It is one means by which humans have changed the world by creating gigantic buildings and machines, tiny electronics, and high-fived each other at those accomplishments.”

So make sure that workers are equipped with the right winter glove to protect their hands from frostbite, cuts, abrasions, and punctures. Most glove manufacturers have experienced safety specialists who can help you choose the right winter work glove for your safety program. Your workers will “high- five you” for helping to keep their hands safe this winter.