Staying safe in cold weather

Despite our mild winter this year, we have still had some chilly, frigid days. And with them comes the risk of frostbite–otherwise referred to as cold stress. In today’s Toolbox Talk we offer a few suggestions and tips of the trade for staying warm and safe if you have to work outside on cold winter days.


The first defense is to make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Wear lots of loose layers and try to stay away from cotton, at least right next to the skin. Natural fibers such as silk and wool make for the best insulation and do more to wick away moisture from the body than cotton. You can also find a good line of synthetics that will do the trick.

Protecting the hands and feet are also important. If your line of work allows for it, try to wear thick, insulated gloves but be careful not to compromise finger dexterity. You still need to be able to do your job safely and completely. We’ve found that using a set of glove liners with a mid-weight glove on top can be a good compromise for those days when you need to stay warm but are also going to be doing more detailed outdoor work.

Making sure that you have thick, wool or other warm socks is key to keeping your toes happy and dry during the colder days.


Understanding the symptoms of frostbite can mean the difference between a serious injury and a mild inconvenience. Here are the basic symptoms:

  • Reddened skin develops gray/white patches.
  • Numbness in the affected part.
  • Feels firm or hard.
  • Blisters may occur in the affected part, in severe cases.

If you start to experience any of these symptoms, get inside and slowly begin to warm up. Don’t run your hands under hot water as it can cause a painful reaction to overly cold skin. If symptoms persist, see a doctor.


It’s easy to think that hydrating is only important in the summer months. But it’s simply not true–our bodies depend on water and making sure you’re well hydrated BEFORE you start a strenuous day outside, in the cold, is key to both your health and safety.