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The Layering System Guide – How To Keep Warm This Winter

21 December 2018
Frosty Branches

It’s Not Just The Cold You Have To Watch Out For...

Personal Protective Equipment that only protects against low temperatures will not be enough in windy conditions. This is due to wind chill, which can cause huge drops in total body heat on cold, windy days.

For example, if the air is calm and the temperature is 2°C, your body will feel cool. However, add a 40km/h wind and the situation becomes very dangerous, with the wind resulting in bitter coldness and your body rapidly losing heat.

To combat this, you should be kitted out with protective workwear that has several layers to keep you warm and safe. This is called a layering system.

Experts recommend you should wear several (at least three) layers of loose-fitting clothing in extreme cold conditions. Tight clothing actually reduces blood circulation which will have negative impact of blood circulating to your extremities.

Each layer has a different purpose and helps protect you from the cold and wind. Read on to find our how you can stay safe and warm this winter.


How Do Layers Work?

1) Wicking Layer

  • Removes moisture from skin and transfers it to the next layer.
  • Reduces build-up of sweat, which can cool the body.
  • Most commonly includes synthetic or polypropylene materials (it is recommended to steer clear from cotton)!
  • Examples: Long johns, socks, thermal tops or trousers.

2) Light Insulating Layer

  • Covers the wicking layer.
  • Provides insulation even when wet.
  • Examples: Light fleece or thin wool sweater.

3) Heavy Insulating Layer

  • Retains body heat.
  • Examples: Heavier fleece or wool sweater.

4) Windproof/Waterproof Layer

  • Provides protection against wind, rain and snow.
  • Prevents overheating through ventilation, which allows moisture from sweat to pass through.
  • Examples: Coats or jackets

Boots in Snow

Layering also applies to the head, hands and feet!

Head Layers

Whether you’re wearing a hat or a helmet, facemasks or balaclavas can be layered underneath to reduce heat loss. Not only this, but they’ll protect your face from frostbite.

Hand Layers

Mittens are a great way to keep hands warm, however they can be a bit impractical for precision tasks.

Luckily, most PPE suppliers offer a range of cold weather safety gloves. These are usually thermal lined with water-resistant properties.

Feet Layers

Waterproof footwear is a must during the winter months. Additionally, they should incorporate insulating and thermal features to keep your feet warm in low temperatures.

Socks are also important! A two-layer sock system is recommended for most winter work. For example, you could wear a thin polypropylene sock with a wool sock over the top. This will allow moisture to be wicked away from your feet and the wool will stay warm even if wet.

If two socks aren’t for you, then a single pair of loose-fitting wool and/or synthetic material socks should work a treat. Just remember to bring a spare pair in case you need them!


Take Action

Working in winter conditions provides a large set of challenges. However, the risks can be managed with training and suitable cold weather PPE and workplace safety products.

In addition to wearing the right workwear and PPE, there are other ways you can help protect yourself and colleagues from the risks of working in the cold:

  • Implement controls to reduce the risks of exposure to the cold, such as radiant heaters.
  • Shield areas of work from the wind where practical and possible.
  • Schedule work according to weather conditions.
  • Allow frequent breaks in warm, dry areas.
  • Keep a close eye on the physical condition of yourself and colleagues during their shift.
  • Ensure there are suitable signs and traffic management procedures in place for the dark winter months.
  • Provide and undertake training on topics such as basic first aid, symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite and suitable PPE and safe work practices for cold conditions.
  • Fuel your body to stay warm! In extremely cold conditions, it’s best to take in your calories steadily over the day. Six to eight snacks are better than two heavy meals.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. These restrict blood vessels, impeding the body’s ability to heat itself.

Who Can Help?

Swift360 has long-standing experience in helping keep outdoor workers warm in the cold winter months. To find out about the Personal Protective Equipment we can provide, or to seek advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.