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Winter Warmth blog 2 - The science behind layering

Winter 2022/3 is shaping up to be a tough time for businesses: facing high energy bills and the challenges of supply chain turbulence will lead to a stretched supply of cold weather PPE in the coming months. In this series of three helpful blogs we hope to offer some insight and advice to help you support your workforce and help them to work safely to their full potential through the winter at a time when there is financial pressure to turn the heating down.

There are two key reasons that layering should be an important part of your winter PPE strategy.

Warmth: Layers of clothing will trap insulating layers of heat close to the body. But knowing which fabrics to use and where to use them is slightly more complicated. Different fabric types have different properties and using them correctly can mean the difference between being warm or becoming dangerously cold, and losing motor control and concentration on the hazards at hand.

Hazard protection: For your employees to use their PPE and workwear in line with your risk assessments, it is vital that they do not attempt workarounds to stay warm, particularly in high hazard environments. Protection from fire or arc flash is compromised if unsuitable garments are used. At the same time as ensuring warmth, layering the right materials is vital in personal protection.

Layer 1. Next to skin, this is known as a Wicking, or Base Layer . The aim is to pull moisture away from the skin. This is particularly important for outdoor workers engaged in more vigorous activity, where sweat can rapidly cool on the skin and reduce core body temperature. Examples of wicking layers include synthetic or polypropylene short or long-sleeved vests, long johns and socks. Cotton is not advisable to use next to the skin as it does not wick moisture away effectively. Clothes should not be overly tight, allowing circulation and comfortable movement.

Layering should not be limited to the upper body – the concept is important in all parts of the body from head to toe.

Engel Thermal Top

Engel Thermal Trousers

JSP black Surefit thermal safety helmet liner

Protector Thinsulate Waterproof Helmet Liner

Bata Cool MS2 Moisture Regulating Sock

Mid Layers: Next come the insulating layers which will trap body heat. These can be different weights: a light layer, such as a light fleece or wool sweater and thicker layers of heavier fleece or wool which will trap more warmth. These layers should allow progressively more space, to ensure they can be worn comfortably over base layers.

Premium Polycotton Hooded Sweatshirt

Yellow Hi-Visibility Fleece Jacket

Acrylic Thinsulate Ski Hat

Orange Hi-Visibility Coolviz Long Sleeve Poloshirt

Engel Galaxy Mens Sweat Cardigan

Protective outer layer: Finally, to protect the body from the elements, a weatherproof outer layer is essential. It is important that this fabric is breathable, allowing moisture wicked away from the body to evaporate, yet waterproof, not allowing moisture back in.

Engel Safety Winter Jacket - Mens

Yellow/Black Engel Ladies Softshell Jacket

Elka Yellow/Navy Visible Xtreme Unlined Stretch Trouser

Elka Orange/Navy Multinorm Electric Arc Jacket

Cofra Thinsulate Lined Coldstore Glove

All layers are available with the safety features necessary to protect against industry hazards, be it ARC flash or flame resistant fabrics or colours to comply with rail safety standards. Combining layers of safety fabrics can increase the level of protection offered, at the same time as maximising warmth.

Using the wrong PPE for the conditions is a real risk, particularly in winter. Overall, a structured plan which considers the correct hazard protection at the same time as maximising weather protection is an essential part of preparing for the season.

Read our other article(s) for more information on what the right PPE for winter weather is and what to avoid.

Go to our Winter PPE range

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