Snowy Green Leaves

Stay Safe (and Warm) by Planning Ahead

Nov. 8, 2022
The risk of cold-related illnesses, such as hypothermia and frostbite, increases as temperatures decline, but these types of illnesses can be prevented by frequent forecasting, adding additional layers of clothing, preparing your vehicles, and so on.

With cold weather comes the need to prepare. The risk of cold-related illnesses, such as hypothermia and frostbite, increases as temperatures decline, but these types of illnesses can be prevented by frequent forecasting, adding additional layers of clothing, preparing your vehicles, and so on.


For those who spend a significant part of their workday outdoors, it’s important to know how to get acclimated to cold weather. A TIME Magazine article notes, “Adjusting your thermostat down by a few degrees, shedding layers, and spending more time outside in cold conditions — basically, anything that causes you to shiver — will help your body acclimate to the cold.”

For some people, like myself, we have added insulation. It’s quite easy for me to acclimate to cold weather and I prefer it. How well a person acclimates to the cold depends on their health, body type, and other factors. Acclimation can have a wide variety of time frames as far as cold weather goes.

Future forecasting

Part of being prepared and knowing when cold weather is coming is monitoring the forecast — not just for tomorrow, but for the next 10 days. By constantly monitoring the forecast, one can be better prepared to mitigate any negative weather effects on the body.

The National Weather Service suggests, “Checking the forecast at or your favorite weather app, station, etc. Make checking the forecast part of your routine so you'll know when to expect cold weather.”

Bundle up

In addition to becoming acclimated to the cold and regularly monitoring the forecast, it’s just as important to layer and pick the right clothing for the temperature.

Some clothing retains heat better than other clothing. Knowing what keeps you warm is paramount to working in the elements. Consider bundling up with long sleeve shirts and thermals instead of short sleeve shirts on chilly days. Layering clothing properly will assist in being prepared and help when the temperature starts to warm up while working.

There are also Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-approved hard hat liners for when temperatures drop. As a friendly reminder, OSHA standards don’t allow individuals to wear baseball caps underneath hard hats. These liners help keep the heat in and people’s heads nice and toasty.

OSHA states, “The use of the terms ‘accessories’ and ‘winter liners’ indicate that these American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards permit the use of cold weather liners that are specifically designed for use with hard hats — that is, specifically designed to be compatible with the protective properties of the helmets. Therefore, use of a ‘winter liner’ specifically designed to be compatible with the hard hat's protective properties is not prohibited.”

Additionally, ANSI Z89.2-1971 states in section 5.5.2, “Winter liners should be made of fabric, plastic, or other suitable material. Colored materials shall be fast-dyed. The outer surface may be water-resistant. There shall be no metal parts in winter liners for use with Class B helmets.”

Another handy item is gloves and not just work gloves – gloves like the Isotoner driving gloves from back in the day. They’re thin enough to complete everyday tasks yet keep your hands warm.

When it’s cold, our extremities don’t always get the proper amount of oxygen and can become cold quickly. Having our extremities (hands, feet, ears, etc.) covered at all times can make a difference.

Equally important is staying dry. If for some reason you get wet, change out of those clothes as soon as reasonably possible so you don’t get hypothermia. I like to carry a change of clothes in all my work vehicles. Not so much my boots, but socks, undergarments, work pants, and shirts. You never know, you might fall in the mud, a shirt might get ripped, or something else.

Vehicle preparedness

It’s also important to spend adequate time preparing our vehicles because the cold weather doesn’t just affect us, it affects our vehicles, too. Checking fluid levels and coolant temperatures, or ensuring your heater and defroster work properly are things that will affect us out in the field adversely if we don’t take care of them ahead of time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends preparing your vehicle for cold weather before winter arrives by taking the following steps.

-Service the radiator and maintain antifreeze levels.

-Check your tires’ tread or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.

-Keep the gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

-Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.

-Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. The kit should include:

  • Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
  • Items to stay warm, such as extra hats, coats, mittens, blankets, or sleeping bags
  • Food and water
  • Booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction)
  • Compass and maps
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Plastic bags (for sanitation)

We need to realize cold weather preparedness takes more preparation than hot weather preparedness. If it’s hot, everybody knows to take their layers off. When it’s cold, you don’t always remember to add extra layers or bring extra clothing. With the right preparation, the hazards of winter and cold weather can be significantly decreased.

M.K. Youngblood serves as the safety manager at ACRT Pacific. He has more than 30 years of public service and first responder experience with core proficiency in American Indian law, American Indian culture, and disaster cleanup. Youngblood also serves as a certified instructor for the U.S. Department of Energy (National Nuclear Security Administration and Center for Radiological Nuclear Training), U.S. Emergency Management Institute, and Center for Domestic Preparedness. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Emergency Management and a master’s degree in public administration, both from Concordia College.

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