Keeping Warm While Working Outdoors: A Short Guide for Electrical Contractors
Winter season usually falls upon New Zealand from June to August. In contrast to the sweltering heat of the summer, the temperature during New Zealand’s winters can dip anywhere between 12 °C and 16 °C.
And although this is not necessarily a frostbite-inducing chill, it is still the kind that can render an electrical contractor feeling cold, uncomfortable, or unfocused. Moreover, erratic weather conditions such as cold rain and biting wind can pose additional dangers to an electrician’s difficult, physically demanding, and precise line of work.
As an electrician, you know that the weather is not something you can influence. Rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, you still have important work to do. What you can influence, however, is how prepared you’ll be to do work in extreme conditions. One important aspect of this prep work is dressing properly for the occasion—paying heed not only to the type of clothing you’re wearing but also how it is layered and what it is made of.
For some quick tips on choosing, layering, and wearing work-safe clothing during the cold months, here’s a guide that any electrical contractor from New Zealand can read.
The Principle behind Layering Your Clothing
One of the first lessons you receive as an electrician is how to use personal protective equipment or PPE. To skilled labourers like electrical contractors, clothing serves more than a decorative function—it is a means to protect oneself sufficiently while completing dangerous, sometimes life-threatening work.
But what some contractors may forget is that the principle of dressing safely for the summer is not the same as that of dressing safely for the winter. To achieve optimum protection in the latter season, and to maximise the function of specialty gear like Arcpro protective clothing for electricians, one must be exceptionally careful about layering their clothing.
There are three layers that a work-ready electrical contractor should observe in their winter ensemble: a base layer or inner layer, a middle layer, and an outer layer. Below are brief descriptions of how each clothing layer is meant to function.
- Base layer. The base layer, or inner layer, is the layer of clothing worn closest to your skin. It is meant to do two things: (1) regulate your body’s temperature, and (2) absorb sweat and keep your skin dry from excessive moisture. Clothing worn as the base layer of your outfit should allow sweat to move freely through the fabric, instead of trapping it. It should also allow sweat to evaporate quickly. Types of clothing that can be used as base layers are shirts or vests that are made of merino wool or silk.
- Middle layer. The middle layer of the ensemble is meant to insulate your body by trapping the warm air close to it. In short, this is the layer that’s meant to give you the most warmth. Fabrics like fleece, wool, and polyester work well in middle layers, but electricians can also use specialty arc and flame-resistant middle layers like Arcpro for added protection. It is also important to note that you may wear more than one middle layer. You can vary the insulating quality of your ensemble by wearing multiple thin layers as opposed to one thick layer, and then carefully removing each layer as you go.
- Outer layer. The last and outermost layer is meant to shield you against wind and moisture while keeping your other layers dry. The outer layer can consist of a breathable fabric membrane like Gore-Tex, which is manufactured to be both waterproof and windproof, or a simple insulated jacket.
Taken together, these layers should perform as a unit that can help you fulfil electrical work in the cold weather. There should be enough allowance to add, subtract, or adjust from the layers as the weather changes during the workday.
Wearing Safe and Hazard-Proof Clothing Materials at Work
Another principle must also be considered when you choose clothes for outdoor electrical work: the fabric itself must be conducive to safe, hazard-free work with electricity.
Fabric material should be one of your chief considerations. Industry specialists in PPEs recommend that you choose natural fibres such as cotton, silk, and wool for your layers. You should also avoid synthetics like rayon or nylon, which may increase your risk of getting into an electric arc flash accident.
You can also opt to choose fire-retardant fabrics or materials that are given extra chemical treatment and flame-resistant testing to reduce flammability. These can be in the form of inherently flame-resistant (IFR) fabrics, which are woven out of flame-resistant fibres; flame-retardant (FR) fabrics, whose reverse layers are coated with a topical treatment; or durable flame-retardant (DFR) fabrics, which are dyed with permanent fire-resistant chemicals. These clothes work against trapping moisture while reducing the harm of arc flashes or electrical fires at the same time.
Conclusion: Working to Keep Safe, Warm, and Productive
One last reminder for electricians working in the cold winter months: be conscientious about the maintenance of your work clothing and PPEs. Wash, dry, and store your clothing layers neatly to keep them in prime condition, and replace them as needed if they incur irreparable damage. Don’t put yourself (or your clients by extension) in the line of unnecessary risk.
Once you have these pointers in mind, you’ll be ready to work in any weather conditions. It will be a cinch to look smart—and work smart—in your clothing ensemble.