Working outdoors in temperatures at or below freezing with limited daylight hours in the Marcellus and Utica Shale region is a daily occurrence from December through March. During these months it is critical that workers protect themselves from the winter elements by donning the correct personal protective equipment. This will help your body retain heat and lessen the threat of frostbite and hypothermia caused by prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures, including wind chill. The key pieces of P.P.E. to add to your wardrobe for winter months are reflective products for visibility, FR balaclavas for head warmth, and appropriate gloves and boots.
Limited daylight hours and worker visibility is a topic that you probably discuss at your daily or monthly safety meetings. Insulated FR Firezero brand jackets provide 360 degrees of reflective high-visibility trim is a good way to ensure that any member of your team can be seen day or night. Other ways to get your workforce into reflective gear to they can be seen in low light conditions include flame resistant safety vests, arm and leg bands/straps, reflective leg gaiters, high viz suspenders, 4 inch reflective hard hat stickers (put one on the front, the back, and one on each side), or consider a Brim Guard for each employee. This is a reflective band designed to fit the edge of a MSA Full-Brim hard hat, that shines when lights hits it. A Pelican brand waterproof hard hat headlamp equipped with optional red LED for nighttime use is another safety tool that helps keep your insulted gloved-hands freed up, to safely complete job tasks.
The Coldavenger FRC Expedition Balaclava is a one-of-a-kind flame resistant face liner that provides the warmth of Polartec fleece to protect your head, neck, and face against the cold temperatures. Designed with three foam inserts and a hook and loop closure system, the wearer can customize the piece to ensure the proper fit. It also has a detachable ventilator to keep your airways relaxed with warm, humidified air, so breathing while you work on the jobsite in bitter temperatures is more comfortable – all of these amazing features and flame resistant for personal safety and compliance.
The two most important pieces of personal protective equipment for wintertime are gloves and boots. The best way to prevent hand injuries is to use the correct gloves for the job, and often times in the winter that means changing the hand protection you usually purchase, to those made with Thinsulate or similar for warmth, or Hipora for water resistance. This includes adding impact or metacarpal gloves that have built-in protection on the top of the glove to protect the bones in your hand. Steel-toe or Metatarsal boots protect the bones in your feet and water resistant boots are essential for field work. A new product in the market is the Muck Brand Metatarsal boot, which provides year round use in both subfreezing temperatures and eighty degree weather. Other extremely useful wintertime P.P.E. for your hands and feet include SnoSeal beeswax leather water-proofer, a boot & glove dryer, Lift brand thermal glove liners (prevent your hands from sweating), and Merino wool socks are great insulators or Bama socks for wellington slip on boots.
In conclusion, do not forget to protect your head, hands, and feet during the winter months – they are your most important tools!
A quick reminder about flame resistant winter work wear. Before you choose to wear a product that is not FR, please take a moment and assess the flash fire hazard risk for your job type. FR is something you must wear while you are on oil and gas jobsite locations, not only because it is a safety requirement, because it will protect you in the event of a flash fire. Here are the key points to remember about wearing FR clothing, especially in the chilly winter months: