How to keep warm in the winter in the construction industry

How to keep warm in the winter in the construction industry

16th September 2014

We're coming to the end of the best British summer in years, with a heatwave that's reminiscent of days gone by.  We've had a proper summer at last, with families flocking to local pools land splash parks, to say nothing of people taking to the sea in droves around Britain's coastline.  True, most of us still had to go to work over the summer unless we'd booked annual leave during that lucky window of weather opportunity and keeping cool at work became a priority for many of us.  This will have been a real summer to remember and as it draws to a close, leading us into a (hopefully) glorious autumn, we take a look at the importance of keeping warm at work, particularly during the harsh winter months.

So many workers in the construction industry work out of doors throughout the British winters and staying warm is vital if you want to work safely in winter weather conditions.  

While there is no legal minimum temperature requirement for those who work outdoors and cold is a pretty subjective subject anyway - some of us feel the cold much more than others do.  The term “thermal comfort” has been coined to describe a person's state of mind in terms of whether they feel too cold or too hot.  Thermal comfort is actually defined in British Standard BS EN ISO 7730 as “that condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment”.  

Thermal comfort is actually very difficult to define because it's comprised of both environmental factors and personal factors which make up the “human thermal environment”.  The best that can really be hoped for is a thermal environment that satisfies the majority of the people in the workplace.

Thermal comfort is a vitally important factor as people working in uncomfortably hot or cold conditions are less likely to behave in a safe manner because their ability to make decisions and perform manual tasks deteriorates.  People will often take shortcuts to get out of the cold and a worker's ability to concentrate on a task may decrease which will increase the risk of error.

For those who work outdoor, especially construction workers who work at height using access equipment, platforms and ladders, clothing insulation is vital.  Clothing interferes with our ability to lose heat to the environment and the thermal comfort of workers is very much dependent on the insulating effect of the clothes they wear. If the clothing does not provide enough insulation, the worker may be at risk from cold injuries such as frost bite or hypothermia.

Employers should provide suitable thermal clothing for those who will be working outside during the winter months.  Wearing multiple layers of clothing will enable staff to make their own personal adjustments based on their own thermal comfort.  An employer or manager can also help to keep workers warm in winter by introducing systems of work which limit exposure to the cold such as flexible working patterns and job rotation.  Providing sufficient breaks will also mean that employees can warm up in heated areas and with the help of hot drinks.