Tips for Working Safely in Cold Weather

January 30, 2018 - CLDC LMCC LECET

Work Safely in Cold Weather

Does your job keep you outside in cold weather? If so, here are two essentials when getting ready for the workday: Dress in layers and use sun protection.

Dressing in Layers

Chilly temperatures are often accompanied by rain, sleet and snow. Prolonged exposure to any one of these can lead to cold stress and its related, serious conditions like hypothermia and frostbite.

“Loss of alertness and fatigue, both of which increase the likelihood of suffering a workplace accident, can also result from exposure to cold, and it doesn’t have to be freezing either,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Fifty-degree temperatures mixed with a little wind and precipitation can be treacherous.”

Wearing three layers of loosely fitting clothing made of wool, silk or synthetic materials can help protect against these conditions by:

  • Wicking moisture away from the body
  • Providing insulation
  • Allowing ventilation

It is also important to:

  • Wear a hat or hood to reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from the head. Forty percent of body heat can be lost when the head is not covered.
  • Wear insulated, water-resistant gloves.
  • Wear insulated, waterproof footwear to protect against trench foot.

Sun Protection

The importance of wearing sunscreen and using lip balm does not change when temperatures fall.

“The sun’s ultraviolet rays, the source of most cases of skin cancer, can be as dangerous in the winter as they are in the summer if proper sun protection measures are not taken,” says Sabitoni. “Oftentimes, the head, face and neck areas are exposed year round. It is not a coincidence that these are also the places on the body where most skin cancers occur. As in the warmer months, on and off the job, it’s essential to use sun protection.”

Protect against skin cancer by:

  • Using a broad spectrum sunscreen and lip balm with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher
  • Applying sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors
  • Reapplying sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if sweating or wet

In addition, continue to protect your eyes as you do in warm weather by wearing wrap-around sunglasses.


Employers should also implement measures that can help keep workers safe during cold weather. These include:

  • Using heaters whenever possible to control temperatures
  • Scheduling more rest breaks in a wind-protected area
  • Rotating workers so that no one is exposed too long
  • Scheduling work at the warmest times of the day whenever possible
  • Training Laborers to recognize the signs of cold stress and how to treat it
  • Establishing a buddy system
  • Keeping first-aid supplies and equipment available
  • Access to warm beverages

The LHSFNA has developed a number of Health Alerts, brochures and other materials pertaining to cold stress and skin cancer. Order them by clicking on Publications

Sun protection products and educational materials are available throughout the year to LIUNA signatory employers, training centers, district councils and local unions through the LHSFNA’s SunSense Program. Order these materials by clicking here for the 2014 SunSense order form or by calling 202-628-5465.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]