Working in low temperature environments like cold stores, freezers and chillers – and even draughty warehouses – it’s a no-brainer that you need to try to keep warm, but have you ever thought that you might be at risk of getting too warm? People often don’t realise that they may be in just as much danger from overheating in these cold environments as they are from getting too cold.
Staying safe and healthy in extremes of heat and cold means regulating your temperature and not allowing it to go too far one way or another. In the same way that shivering could be a sign you’re not wearing enough clothing, sweating might indicate you’re wearing too much.
In this blog, we look at five mistakes people often make when they’re trying to stay warm in a cold environment:
#1 Not layering up
If you’re cold, it may be tempting to throw on a thick, bulky jacket to protect you from the elements, but the best way to regulate your temperature is to layer up, but do so correctly.
Broadly-speaking, there are three main layers that are essential for proper temperature regulation.
A base layer will provide a small amount of warmth but, positioned directly against the skin, its primary function is to wick away moisture in the form of sweat from the skin, helping to regulate body temperature. No matter how cold the temperature, a base layer should always be a close-fitting, lightweight, long-sleeved top. Avoid cotton clothing, which will soak up moisture but won’t dry out, making you cold.
The mid-layer should provide insulation, directing any body heat that your base layer doesn’t retain back into your body while, at the same time, helping to stop cold air reaching your body. A good mid-layer is breathable and wicks moisture away from the body in the same way as the base layer, ensuring you stay warm even if it gets wet. Although providing insulation, it should not constrict your movement.
The main purpose of the outer layer is to protect you from the elements. It should be waterproof and breathable to allow sweat and water vapour to escape your body. In most cases, a thin jacket will suffice, as your mid-layer should keep you warm, but in particularly cold environments like freezers you will likely need to wear a specialist freezer jacket specifically designed for the job.
How does layering work?
Air becomes trapped between the layers, where it acts as an insulator, keeping you warm. Removing a layer reduces the amount of air trapped, cooling you down. Best practice for working in cold environments suggests wearing multiple layers which can be added to or removed depending on whether you need to warm up or cool down.
#2 Layering for fashion instead of function
There is a reason why most base and mid-layers are plain fabric tops. They are designed for their function rather than for fashion. No one wants an uncomfortable zipper pile-up around their chin, so, when you’re layering up, don’t forget to take into account how all your layers will interact together, and remember that they are designed to work together rather than alone.
#3 Starting out too hot
It’s so easy to do – you’re so focused on keeping warm that you layer up to the max and then, within a few minutes of getting to work, you start sweating. The key to effective layering is to start slightly chilly, and wear layers and accessories that are easy to add to or remove as needed once you start moving around and building up heat.
#4 Stopping too late
As soon as you start sweating or feeling too hot, that is your body telling you that you need to cool down. Stop or slow down, and immediately remove some layers to regulate your temperature. You can always add them back on later on if you get cold. Remember, though, not to remove too much clothing at once, as your temperature could go too far the other way. Which leads us nicely to common mistake #5…
#5 Failing to micro-adjust
When you start getting too hot, it can be tempting to remove more than you need to to cool down and then, within a few minutes, you’re cold again. Effective temperature regulation requires an understanding of the power of micro-adjustments, such as opening up a zip, pushing up your sleeves, or taking your hat off. In many cases, these quick, small adjustments can make the difference that keeps you at a comfortable temperature, without requiring the removal of a full layer of clothing. Similarly, adding a hat or gloves can help you feel warmer if you’re getting cold, without the need to add any extra clothing to your body too.
We understand what makes the cold chain sector unique, and the specific protective clothing, footwear and site safety requirements of businesses working in it. Speak to one of our experts and find out how we can help.