Trends in ... cold protection
‘Lives on the line’
Working in cold conditions can be challenging, even dangerous. Without adequate protection, outdoor workers may experience frostbite and hypothermia, a potentially deadly form of cold stress that occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below 95° F. Here, industry insiders discuss new technology being used to help keep workers safe in cold conditions, and offer helpful tips.
Innovations in fabric and insulation technologies for cold-weather personal protective equipment have grown in recent years, said Brian Ciciora, CEO and founder of Denver-based Truewerk. He points to synthetic fabrics that have four-way stretch, allowing workers to maintain mobility and dexterity.
“Additionally, these fabrics can have high warmth-to-weight ratios, which help to eliminate excess bulk often found in products made from fabrics traditionally associated with workwear,” Ciciora said. “Finally, cold conditions can often be accompanied by wet conditions, and high-performance membranes help keep out moisture from the environment while maintaining breathability to regulate body temperature.”
When wearing warm clothing, workers need to keep in mind a few important facts. “Common misuses of [flame-resistant], arc-rated PPE products are workers improperly layering regular, meltable/flammable clothing underneath correct PPE and/or wearing flammable/meltable outerwear over FR/AR clothing and assuming it is OK,” said Steve Layton, president of Andover, MA-based Polartec.
Layton also noted that the latest versions of NFPA 70E and NFPA 2113 “state that the outer layer needs to be flame-resistant, and that underlayers/base layers need to be made from at least natural fiber, non-melting fabrics, as meltable fabrics underneath can cause burn injuries.”
Ciciora contends that one of the most misunderstood aspects of workwear is layering. “From product designers to workers on the jobsite, there is a ton of ‘brute force’ approaches to warmth,” he said. “Where fabrics and insulation just get thicker and heavier until people end up looking like the Michelin Man.” Ciciora said he believes the industry needs to do a better job educating consumers on layering systems that help workers maintain mobility.
Words of wisdom
It’s important to know where your fabric is coming from, Layton said. “With lives on the line, workers should be seeking out trusted brands that will stand behind their products.”
Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association
Coming next month:
- Eye protection
- Safety signs/labels