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Nothing is worse than your hands getting so cold that they go numb. Now you have to stop working to warm them up, and you get stuck in a cycle. A task that would normally take an hour ends up taking half the day.
The right pair of cold-weather gloves could solve that problem. We live in a day and age where you have countless options for cold-weather gloves. Finding a pair of gloves that suits your specific purpose is possible, but it is difficult if you are unsure what you need.
Read about the other types of construction gloves
Read about the other types of construction gloves
Here, we break down some common features in a pair of cold-weather work gloves. Choosing not to wear gloves in dangerously cold conditions is the only wrong answer.
Why You Need Proper Cold Weather Work Gloves
There are no surprises here. You must wear appropriate PPE when exposed to cold weather to keep yourself warm and safe. Wearing layers and a quality jacket will help prevent hypothermia. Wearing waterproof and insulated foot ware will help prevent trench foot. And a warm pair of work gloves will help avoid frostnip and frostbite in your hands.
We've all heard of frostbite. If your hands get cold enough, the skin and tissue will freeze, causing damage to the tissue. Frostbite requires medical attention to treat, and the process of thawing out the tissues is extremely painful. Similar to burns, there are four degrees to frostbite.
First-degree frostbite is the least severe and usually easy to treat. This cosmetic level of frostbite is also known as frostnip. The surface of the skin begins to freeze. The skin will begin to discolor, and your hands will start to feel numb with sharp pain. When you feel this, immediately warm up your hands to avoid a deeper freeze.
If you can warm your hands before your hands continue to freeze, you will avoid needing to seek medical treatment and permanently damaging your hands.
Fourth-degree frostbite severely damages and destroys skin, tissue, muscle, and bone. Fourth-degree frostbite leaves the skin discolored or black and will likely result in an amputation.
Working in cold conditions and holding cold tools and materials will accelerate the onset of frostbite. Wearing a quality pair of waterproof winter work gloves will help keep your hands warmer for longer while you work.
What to Consider When Choosing Cold Weather Work Gloves
Picking a pair of cold-weather gloves requires you to know what you need. There is no such thing as a perfect pair of gloves for every situation. Some workers are in colder climates. Some jobs are wetter. Some jobs require cut resistance. Every situation is different.
The glove market is a chaotic place for someone who is unsure what they are looking for, so let's break down some common features.
This will probably be the first thing you look for in a pair of cold-weather work gloves. If you work outside in a cold climate that gets into the deep negatives, you'll want a more insulated glove than someone who works in a refrigerated facility that is consistently around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unfortunately, there is no American standard for glove insulation. Most manufacturers list the recommended operating temperatures for their cold-weather gloves, but be wary of gimmicks. Alternatively, you can find gloves tested by the European standard for cold weather gloves. EN511 displays a rating for three separate tests. The first two tests speak to the thermal performance of the glove.
The first rating is resistance to convective cold. Which is how well the glove performs against cold air passing over it. It can score between one to four. One being the lowest performance, and four being the best.
The second rating is resistance to "contact cold". This rating also follows the same one-to-four score system. Basically, its how well a glove perform while holding something cold?
Many jobs require gloves with specific gripping capabilities. Just like regular work gloves, you can get winter work gloves with various grips. Palm coating is a popular method of adding grips to gloves.
The most common palm coating types are PU (polyurethane) and nitrile. When talking about regular work gloves, PU tends to be the more popular option. PU coatings are very dexterous and provide plenty of grip. But with winter gloves, you are already sacrificing dexterity for insulation, and nitrile grips offer excellent grip in wet conditions.
So, for winter gloves, you'll often find more nitrile-coated gloves. Additionally, you'll often find these gloves with a sandy finish for added grip.
Glove manufacturers offer many different options for grips, be sure to read any manufacturer information to find out the intended work conditions for that grip.
If cuts are a hazard in your line of work, you need a good pair of cut-resistant gloves. Both the U.S. and Europe have their cut-resistant standards. ANSI 105 is the U.S. cut-resistant standard, and it's rated from A1 at the lowest cut protection to A9 with the most cut protection.
EN388 is the European cut-rating standard, and it encompasses a lot more. Under EN388 gloves can be rated for, abrasion, puncture resistance, tear resistance, impact protection, and cut resistance (2 tests). Gloves that have been tested under this standard have a badge printed on them with an alphanumeric number. That number will tell you how the glove performed on each test.
Check out our blog post on cut-resistant gloves to learn more about ANSI 105 and EN388.
As we mentioned, an impact rating is covered under EN388. The U.S. added a new standard in 2019 for impact rating (ANSI/ISEA 138).
The EN388 impact rating test is pass or fail. There are no levels of impact resistance. Gloves either are impact-resistant, or they aren't.
ANSI/ISEA 138 has three levels of impact rating, level one being the lowest impact protection and level three being the highest protection.
Impact-resistant gloves are designed to disperse the initial impact to the back of your hand when something heavy falls on it. They are very effective at reducing the total force, which will hopefully save you from a broken hand.
This is an often-overlooked factor. Imagine it's zero degrees outside, one worker job is to hold a sign (flagger), while the other is digging a hole. The flagger will need a warmer pair of gloves than the worker who is digging. If both workers wore the same cold weather clothes, the worker digging would likely overheat.
We've all done that thing where we bundle up before working outside on a cold day, then an hour later, we are sweating and overheating. Accounting for how active you will be will help you pick the right pair of gloves you can comfortably wear all day.
Choosing the Right Fit
This last point isn't specific to cold-weather gloves. This applies to any work gloves and, honestly, any work PPE. You have to make sure they fit correctly. Ill-fitted gloves are ineffective and can be dangerous.
If your gloves are too small, and your fingers are longer than the fingers of the glove, or the glove is too tight around the palm, you will run into issues very quickly. If you wear those gloves all day, you can lose circulation to your hands, drop things, and have trouble doing basic tasks. But that won't happen because you won't wear them all day. You'll get frustrated after a few minutes and end up taking them off.
Unnecessarily big gloves are also a hazard. Excess material can get caught in machinery and is also challenging to work in. Again, you will be tempted to just take them off frequently.
It's tough figuring out what size pair is right. A lot of manufacturers offer sizing charts or information on how to pick the right pair. Don't be afraid to contact the seller and ask questions. Anytime a customer contacts us, we are happy to help them find the right size.
As colder months begin to roll in, ensure you have all the gear you need to stay warm. We always suggest having a few pairs of cold-weather gloves available. If one pair gets too cold or wet, you can always put on another pair to help save your hands.
PowerPak has a great selection of cold-weather gloves with various combinations of features. Take a look and let us know if you have any questions.