Let’s get one fact straight: Edmonton winters are unbearable. For those who make their living working in the outdoors, this reality is twofold. Forget about global warming for a minute; recently, we’ve seen temperatures as low as -40 C with no accounting of wind chill. Working in arctic conditions is risky - workers could fall victim to hypothermia or frostbite if they’re not careful. We still have a couple of months of winter left, and there’s no telling that we’ll be seeing warm weather make a return anytime soon. With that in mind, here are five tips for keeping warm while working in the cold.
1. Wear proper clothing
This may sound obvious but it’s an absolute must when working outdoors. It's important to dress in loose-fitting clothes, which can trap heat easily and allow you to move freely. You also want to make it so you can remove layers when necessary. Sweating during the winter might feel great but it’s also a sign you’re overexerting yourself.
2. Layers and layers
First things first: thermals are your friend. With layers, it helps to think of it as a system where you first start with a base to help keep moisture away from the skin. Go for fabrics that retain warmth like wool and polyester. Ditch the cotton; it works as an agent extracting heat out of the body once wet. From there, move on to light fleece or thin wool to complement your thick base. After that, you'll need a jacket to protect your body and keep you windproof and waterproof. For your hands, it's best to bring mitts with thin gloves underneath that will allow you to do complicated work without exposing your skin to the cold. And don’t forget your big winter toque!
3. Protect yourself
One of the most vulnerable areas for frostbite is the face, where a vast majority of body heat escapes through. Beyond hatgear and scarves, one way to help preserve body heat is through the use of eye protection. Besides helping play a part in influencing on-site work safety, glasses can protect the eyes from irritation by cold or dry air and keep the majority of blood flow going.
4. Fuel up
To work outdoors requires a lot of energy, thus it's important to ensure you’re eating plenty of food when you have breaks, preferably rich in carbohydrates and fat. Go for bread, meats and cheese. On a similar note, make sure to drink plenty of liquids. Try to avoid caffeine, for it can prevent the body from properly heating itself. Seeing your breath in the cold is a reminder of watching water leave your body, so you need to work twice as hard to stay hydrated.
5. Watch out for exposed skin
If you're unable to clothe every inch of your body in layers and layers of clothing, your next bet is to cover as much exposed skin in skin creams and moisturisers to help ward off hypothermia or frostbite. One way to preserve your neck and keep head heat is by getting helmet liners under a hard hat, preferably fleece liners.