Dress For Cold Success

Farmers can reduce potential for frostbite, hypothermia and other weather-related injuries as they work in extreme cold and wet conditions by wearing the right clothing and taking other precautions.

Published on: Feb 17, 2014

You can't beat the weather, but you can protect yourself from the cold.

"Clothing should be your first consideration when working in cold weather," says Kent McGuire, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural health and safety specialist. "Clothing should be selected to suit the temperature; weather conditions such as wind, rain or snow; and the level and duration of activity."

"Since the beginning of the year, we have seen several days with below-zero temperatures and bitterly cold wind chills," McGuire says. "But no matter what the conditions are outside, there is still work to be done around the farm such as feeding livestock, breaking ice in water troughs, cutting wood or loading stored grain.

Dress For Cold Success
Dress For Cold Success

"Even though it may be tempting for some farmers to tough it out or work through it, prolonged exposure to cold, wet and windy conditions can be dangerous, even at temperatures above freezing."

McGuire recommends the following for wintertime outdoor work:
•Wear several layers of clothing. Trapped air between layers forms protective insulation.
•Wear warm gloves, and keep an extra pair in case the first pair becomes wet.
•Wear a hat that provides protection for your head, ears and face in extreme conditions. About 40 percent of your body heat can be lost when the head is uncovered.
•Wear appropriate footwear with warm socks. Footwear should not fit too tightly, which could reduce blood flow to the feet and increase the risk of a cold injury.
•Wear synthetic, wool or silk clothing next to the skin to wick away moisture. Cotton clothing can lose insulating properties when it becomes damp or wet.

Additional safety precautions while working in cold weather should include:
•Avoid getting wet, as body heat can be lost 24 times faster when clothing is wet.
•Take short frequent breaks in areas sheltered from the elements.
•Avoid exhaustion and fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
•Consume warm, high-calorie food such as pasta to maintain energy reserves.
•Drink warm beverages to avoid dehydration, avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
•Work in pairs especially in remote areas, and watch for signs of cold stress.
•Have a cellphone nearby to call for help in the event of an emergency.
•Shield work areas from the elements to reduce wind chill or the chances of getting wet.
•Use insulating material on equipment handles, especially metal handles, when temperatures drop below 30 degrees F.

Workers should plan ahead and wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, as even a simple task may take much longer to complete than expected.

"It is important to consider the fact that we are not as efficient working in colder weather," he says. "Additional layers of clothing and the additional energy being used to stay warm can cause fatigue or exhaustion even doing the easiest of chores.