5 ways to protect your workers with PPE this winter
January 11 2019 - Every workplace will have their own hazards to deal with. But, when your employees are working in higher-risk industries where the chance of danger is increased from duties that require working at height, as well as with heavy machinery and powerful tools, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) may be necessary.
All employers and management have a duty of care to their employees which, under the The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, includes supplying them with equipment and clothing that will protect them against any health and safety threats while on the job. In winter, this can mean going above the basic recommendations. Here, we will be sharing the measures you may need to take during the colder months.
Add insulative layers
With hypothermia, chilblains and frostbite possible, it'll be necessary to provide multiple layers which will keep your staff insulated and warm when they're working outdoors.
To ensure you're providing winter-appropriate clothing, you'll need to ensure they're both water and wind-resistant so that you can protect against body heat loss - there's more information on this in the next section. We also recommend picking coats and trousers that are lined with insulative materials such as soft microfleece.
Additionally, you should check that the pieces you're choosing are lightweight and comfortable, so they don't restrict movement or breathability while on the job. Protecting their heads from the cold will also be necessary, so prioritise hooded items of clothing and hard hat liners for an extra protective layer. To find the best options, we recommend buying from a PPE specialist like Zoro, who have a great range of professional-standard personal protection clothing and workwear that'll keep your staff safe and warm this winter.
Winter is likely to bring wet weather, so you'll need to equip your employees with workwear to prevent them from developing severe health problems caused by the cold. Waterproofs should be a main part of your workers' winter PPE and these can range from a basic rain protection to heavy-weather equivalents - these are differentiated by the amount of water they can repel. In general, workwear and PPE that is designed to offer weather protection from tumultuous conditions is often tested to BS EN 343:2003+A1:2007 (also known as EN343) which is a European standard for protective clothing. This measures the minimum level of protection for wet weather by considering the materials and construction of the garment itself.
The items are rated according to two categories: water penetration resistance and breathability. These are then each broken down into three levels of protection they offer, with 1 being the least protective and 3 being the highest. So, for the best protection, you'll be looking to implement items that are marked as EN343 Class 3.
With darker days to deal with, it's key to implement some visibility measures to your staff's workwear. This should include high-vis garments that meet the criteria laid out by EN ISO 20471:2013 (previously known as BS EN471). Similarly to waterproof clothing, high-vis garments are measured to an international standard with Class 1 being the lowest grade and Class 3 as the highest level of visibility.
To ensure your workers' high-vis items are as effective as possible, it's important that these are always clean. Most high-vis will be machine-washable, but it will be a good idea to have enough spares so that your workers can wear a clean one each day. To increase visibility, we recommend either picking an item that is Class 3 or two which are equal to this level.
Choose slip-resistant footwear
Ensuring that your staff's feet are warm in the cold weather can protect them against cold stress. So, we recommend choosing footwear which has a waterproof upper and an insulative thermal layer to keep them warm and dry, while ensuring breathability.
As well as keeping their feet toasty, it will also be important to recognise the heightened risk of slips, trips and falls that the winter will bring. Safety footwear should have features that will have slip resistance, high flexibility and durability, as well as having a self-cleaning tread. To test for slip resistance, check if a coefficient of friction (CoF) test has been carried out and what the values are. For a high slip resistance, the CoF will be greater than 0.25, while moderate protection would be between 0.16-0.25 and low-resistance would be 0.16 or less. In summary, the higher the value, the lower the slip risk is. For more information, visit this HSE guide to choosing slip-resistant footwear
Implement additional hand protection
According to the PPE regulations, gloves should be worn in temperatures less than 4℃ for light work. However, when your staff are working on construction sites, it's likely that they have already been provided with these to guard their hands against chemical and mechanical hazards. But, with the arrival of wintry weather, you'll need to ensure that their gloves are able to combat against the cold and wet, too.
We recommend looking for both thermal and water-resistant protection which will keep hands dry and warm, but also will ensure your staff's grip is not affected. Gloves made of nitrile offer great flexibility and grip, and can be lined with thermal fleece for ultra-warmth, making them the perfect choice for high-risk industries.
PPE is always important, but when winter hits and novel hazards arise, you should be taking care to provide additional protection to your staff. The tips given here have acted as an introduction to winter PPE, so for the full rules and regulations you should check the government and HSE websites.