Rain Gear – Tips and Considerations
Not every climate experiences winter in quite the same way. While some workers are forced to deal with snow and ice, others instead are treated to long months of low light, fog and driving rain. Depending upon the details of a region’s topography and weather history, for risk managers winter can often mean planning for a protracted period of wet conditions.
There are two primary issues which can lead to an accident due to the presence of rain. The first is the water itself, which poses a threat in several ways. Water can cling to almost any surface, making it slippery to the touch and underfoot. This viscosity is even more pronounced should rain water mix with any chemicals or oils that may be on the ground or on a piece of equipment, making it harder to hold on to power tools, vehicle controls or even remain upright in certain situations. Water can also soak through the clothing worn by workers and cause their body temperatures to drop, which over the course a shift can lead to severe health risks such as frostbite or even pneumonia. Simply put, wet clothes can significantly accelerate the negative health impact of cold weather.
The second, less commonly associated risk presented by rain is low visibility, particularly when operating heavy equipment. Whether rain is heavy or even just a gentle mist, the lack of light brought about by storm clouds almost always drops the distance at which workers can see each other. This problem can be exacerbated when moving in and out of artificially illuminated spaces, such as an indoor warehouse and a much dimmer stock or lumber yard.
Fortunately, risk managers have a large number of options when it comes to mitigating these particular safety concerns. Many levels of rainwear targeted towards an industrial application are available on the market, ranging from full rain suits such as the River City Dominator, which offers .42 mm of PVC and nylon protection from the elements, to lightweight options such as Zodiac .10 mm PVC rain suits. The latter are particularly useful for workers who may only occasionally require protection from the wet, as their small form factor makes them convenient for transport out into isolated areas when rain might be in the forecast. Simpler solutions, such as hooded raincoats and slush boots designed to provide cleated rubber grip on slippery surfaces are also available and should be considered the bare minimum for outdoor workers in a rainy climate.
With regards to visibility, industry-oriented rainwear is almost always available in high contrast or reflective colors such as yellow or bright green, with the option of reflective materials wrapped around them in order to stand out against even the darkest backdrops. It is important to train workers to keep their rain gear as clean as possible in order to avoid masking its reflective qualities. In particular, employees who must often inspect typically grimy areas such as sewers, waste collection facilities or those who service outdoor machinery should be aware of the need to regularly clean their rain suits. If cleaning is not feasible on-site, then fresh rain protection should be made available for each shift in order to maintain the highest possible safety standard.