Cold-Weather FR Clothing Essentials for Electricians in Cold Climates

Cold-Weather FR Clothing Essentials for Electricians in Cold Climates

FR or flame-resistant clothing is designed to prevent the wearer from burn injuries. This happens because the clothing is made using materials that do not ignite, melt, tear, or break when exposed to open flame. 

This type of clothing is crucial for those whose daily work may put them at risk of getting burned. Employees of the petrochemical, renewable energy, firefighting, oil and gas, and bioenergy industries must wear flame-resistant workwear. 

Does the same rule apply to electricians? Yes, because a high amount of heat is generated in case of an arc flash. FR clothing will offer the electrician precious escape time, thereby minimizing the risk of severe injuries. 

Now, what about the winter or cold-weather season? FR clothing can protect electricians against harsh weather (frostbite) as well as possible work-related explosive hazards. In this article, we will discuss the FR clothing essentials for electricians in wintertime. 

What Do Electricians Wear During the Winter?

The daily job of an electrician (especially the onsite work) exposes them to several dangerous situations. Some of these include toxic substances, cuts or abrasions, electric shocks, trips and falls, and explosions. 

The cold weather outside will only make matters worse. For instance – The electrician is vulnerable to suffering from issues like hypothermia, frostbite, reduced muscle functionality, and poor cognitive response. All these happen because their clothing is incapable of protecting against the cold. 

As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), winter preparation must involve layering. This will enable the electrician’s body to hold greater amounts of heat. Even insulated boots and gloves are recommended. In some cases, the winter workwear may have in-built insulation, whereas others could function on removable insulated liners.

Which Material is the Best for the Extreme Cold?

In general, good FR clothing is made using a blend of natural and synthetic fibers for a superior final result. Some common examples would be materials like wool, fleece, nylon, and polyester. Besides protection against extreme cold and occupational hazards, the workwear must also prevent heat loss. 

Imagine this – The clothing protects the electrician against burns or shocks, but is so warm that it causes them to sweat a lot. Even this will backfire because sweating leads to heat loss, thereby raising the risk of hypothermia or reduced brain function. 

This is why it is important to choose fabrics that dry quickly and do not retain moisture. In other words, 100% cotton is not a good choice. 

How Can Electricians Layer Cold-Weather Workwear? The Essentials Checklist 

As of 2023, there are over 1,100,000 electricians employed across the United States. How are they protecting themselves against the biting cold? Their cold-weather FR clothing essentials checklist would involve at least three protective layers. Let’s look at each of these in detail. 

The Base Layer 

According to MWG Apparel, the base layer’s job is to retain heat and prevent its loss around the electrician’s core. For maximum protection, the professional should wear base layer clothing pieces like long johns, thermal-regulating boxers, crewnecks, and full sleeves. The base layer should be made of moisture-wicking fabric, like wool, synthetic polypropylene, or silk. 

The Middle Layer 

The middle layer’s task is to retain sufficient body heat against the extreme cold outside. Providing another barrier between the body and the outerwear, the mid-layer preserves the heat trapped by the base layer. 

The electrician can choose a button-down uniform shirt or a henley t-shirt with long sleeves for the middle layer. Even a sweatshirt or hoodie made of fleece or wool flannel can be chosen. 

The Outer Layer 

Acting as the finishing piece of the winter workwear, the outer layer should trap body heat and protect against rain, snow, or cold winds. In other words, the outerwear offers both weather and arc protection. 

The electrician may choose overalls, coveralls, hoodies, or jackets for the outer layer. A good example would be FR high-visibility waterproof insulated jackets. This can be switched with a hoodie on more arid days. Even rain bibs and waterproof pants must form a part of the protective outerwear. 

As for the bottomwear, the electrician can wear a single layer of heavy-duty utility pants or even thermal-lined work pants. Alternatively, they can layer their work pants with thermal long johns for extra security.

Necessary Accessories for Cold-Weather Outdoor Work 

Besides the three layers of winter-appropriate FR clothing, certain accessories will seal the deal. In simpler terms, winter accessories for the hands, eyes, neck, etc., will keep almost every inch of the electrician’s body covered and warm. Let’s look at these –

  • Head, face, and neck – The electrician can wear balaclavas, hat liners, and neck gaiters. 
  • Hands – Insulated winter work gloves may be paired with hand warmers. 
  • Eyes – Safety goggles, face shields, and polarized safety glasses that offer fog protection are a must. 
  • Feet – The electrician should invest in waterproof and insulated work boots along with merino wool socks. They will also require slip-on ice cleats to minimize the risk of slip-and-fall accidents.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compared four decades of data regarding electrician occupational fatalities. Though the risk has significantly dropped since the 1970s, it was found that thousands of employees missed becoming a fatality simply due to ‘dumb luck.’

Now, that is not a sure foundation to trust one’s life with. Since the daily work of an electrician is challenging and full of unforeseen dangers, it’s best to stay as prepared as possible. The good news is it all starts with putting on weather-friendly fire-resistant safety workwear.