By Jim Towey, Vice President of Marketing for Tingley Rubber Corp.

Even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only has general requirements for cold weather protective clothing, that doesn’t mean it’s not in an employer’s interest to protect workers from the elements.

Cold weather can be an occupational hazard that can lead to injuries – worker’s compensation claims, work slowdowns, and lower performance levels. While employers are not required by OSHA to provide winter gear, it may be worth the investment.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) does have a standard for winter clothing that provides employer guidelines. ANSI/ISEA 201-2012, the American National Standard for Classification of Insulating Apparel Use in Cold Work Environments, establishes classifications for insulating clothing and how well they inhibit heat loss.

OSHA regulations do require high visibility apparel in many outdoor work areas, so workers need winter gear that meets regulatory requirements while also enabling them to work effectively in a cold work environment. When road workers are on roadways and highways surrounded by drivers in winter weather conditions, high visibility protection is even more important to their safety.

Outerwear like jackets, coats, and overalls should not just protect workers from the cold. They should also be designed to allow for flexibility and freedom of movement, so workers can continue to easily perform their tasks on the job.  Breathable materials help workers stay comfortable when the jobs they perform cause them to sweat into their clothes despite the cold.

When selecting winter protective clothing, look for jackets and coats with features like seamed seals for waterproof protection, throat guards to seal out wind and rain, and draw cords to seal out the cold.  Overalls provide more cold weather protection than jeans especially if they are waterproof.  Jeans easily absorb water from melting snow or rain, and most are too lightweight to offer much insulation.

Layering clothes traps air between layer and warms the body more than one thick jacket or coat.

Jackets with removable liners enable workers to easily adjust the layers they are wearing depending on conditions, which can change over the course of a work day. For example, Tingley’s Icon system offers multiple liners that zip into the jacket shells to create layers of extra warmth while still remaining ANSI compliant for high visibility.

Protection from Winter Slips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls are among the most frequent workplace injuries, and often lead to workers compensation claims as a result of head injuries, back injuries, broken bones, and lacerations.  Employers are affected by lost work time, the cost of temporary employees to fill in for injured employees, and increased insurance premiums.

Recently, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America and United Heartland reported that close to a third of all Midwestern workers’ comp claims with lost time were due to slip and falls on ice and snow.

Of course, maintaining safe working conditions is the most important way to prevent these accidents.  But, proper winter footwear also plays a role in worker safety and the prevention of slips and falls.

Depending on the nature and environment of the workplace, protective footwear options include steel toe, composite toe, metatarsal, slip-resistant, cold resistant, heat-resistant, and chemical resistant boots, shoes, and overshoes – among others.  Styles for protective footwear range from heavy duty to lightweight and flexible.

Many styles of footwear are available in natural rubber.  Because it stretches, natural rubber footwear is easier to put on and take off – and it stays comfortable all day.  It stays supple in the winter months because it performs very well in low temperatures.

Waterproof boots can help prevent frostbite in wet conditions, which is needed especially for workers who often have to stand in slush while working.  A properly designed sole that provides traction on slippery surfaces protects workers from falls on snow and ice.  Deep lug, cleated outsoles provide sure-footed traction in wintry conditions.

Many workers prefer to wear their own work boots even if they are not made for winter environments.  Products like Tingley’s Winter-Tuff® Orion XTTM or OrionTM Overshoes fit easily over work boots.   Orion XT’s tungsten-carbide studded outsole makes sure you maintain your grip on icy and snowy surfaces. The non-studded Orion has a deep lug, cleated outsole providing sure-footed traction in wintry conditions. Both styles easy on and off design allows workers to change footwear if they move from outdoors back to working inside.  They also offer an optional 6-inch roll-a-way gaiter to extend coverage up to 20 inches for deep snow.

Attachments for shoes that add traction can also be very useful.  Winter-Tuff® Ice Traction Spikes can be worn over casual, athletic, safety, and work boot style footwear.

Workers in outdoor environments already face many hazardous conditions.  From slips and falls to protection from the cold, proper outerwear and footwear help keep workers safe.

For more information, visit www.tingleyrubber.com.