Winter Woollies on Construction Sites
Here at Safety Fabrications, safety when working on site is an issue that we pay close attention to – after all, we are manufacturers of safe access equipment designed to ensure that workers can get to the places they need to work in a safe and secure manner, minimising the risk of accidents. We published some information and advice on working on construction sites during the winter months. With the recent weather warnings we’ve seen and temperatures plummeting, we feel that now is a good time to reiterate just how important it is to address the issues of cold weather working in the construction sector here in Britain.
As we’ve pointed out, there is no legal minimum temperature for outdoor work and no legal definition of what is considered a “reasonable temperature”. Some of us feel the cold more than others and are more affected by drops in temperature. One effective method of keeping warm is to dress in layers, rather than wearing thick, heavy garments that restrict movement and lead to discomfort as we work.
Thermal underwear makes for a great base layer and recent advances in fabrics and materials have resulted in thin, lightweight fabrics that reduce heat loss and keep us warm. However, just because a fleece feels warm and soft, it doesn’t mean it will perform well outdoors – different fabrics have differing properties so today we’re taking a look at winter fabrics in detail so you can choose which best suits your needs.
Wool – it’s traditional and natural and provides the most insulation with the least amount of weight. Wood is hygroscopic (it absorbs and evaporates moisture effectively), is flame- and odour-resistant, sustainable and biodegradable, making this an eco-friendly choice as well as an efficient one.
Fleece – not a bad insulator as it dries quickly and wicks fairly well, making this a good choice for wearing under a windproof or waterproof layer. However, fleece has very little wind-resistance and can be relatively bulky. Add to this the fact that a fleece releases micro-fibres into the environment (which end up in our oceans and have been discovered in the flesh of fish) each time it’s washed, it’s not a particularly eco-friendly choice and you probably prefer your fish and chips served without an extra helping of plastic!
Lightweight Down – offers wearers a truly effective warmth to weight ratio but, unfortunately, doesn’t perform too well when it comes to breathability and moisture transfer. In damp conditions the surface tension of the water overcomes down’s ability to loft, resulting in a non-insulating layer.
Shelled Microfleece – has a very light micro-velour liner, rather than 100-weight fleece. It adds a little extra insulation and has excellent wicking properties. Breathability, though, depends on the outer windproof fabric which adds wind-resistance at the expense of breathability.
Synthetically-filled Lightweights – in active use the shell fabric combined with synthetic insulation is completely wind-proof but falls down on breathability and wicking performance. The insulation copes better with damp conditions than down, but these garments are best used for lower energy tasks.