Cold Weather Conditions and The Importance of Layering

If you work in the airline, rail or construction industry, you know the importance of safety and compliance. Protect your workers by teaching them how to layer their clothes for cold weather conditions. It may seem like a simple task, but understanding layering systems and the science behind best practices supports productivity and safety. Help your team stay focused, comfortable and ANSI-compliant while experiencing the full benefit of each of their garments by sharing these best practices for layering in cold weather including base work shirts, safety jacketsparkas, and more.


The base layer or underwear layer is the closest to the skin. It should consist of moisture-wicking fabrics that remove sweat from skin and keep the body dry. This helps the body regulate its temperature and prevents it from cooling down too much. When your workers build up a sweat, they stop sweating once their bodies cool to a comfortable temperature. Sweat allows this process by producing a cooling effect when it evaporates. If sweat gets trapped under a non-moisture-wicking base layer and remains on the skin, the body will continue to sweat in an effort to cool itself down and leave your workers feeling clammy and uncomfortable. Avoid fabrics such as cotton that will absorb sweat and become heavy. Look for fabrics such as polypropylene, polyester, nylon, rayon and terms like “thermal-lined” and “breathable” to find the best moisture-wicking hi vis pants, long underwear, tops and socks. While the fit of the base layer should be snug, help your workers decide which weight is appropriate for their working conditions. Lightweight and mid-weight are most effective in cool and cold temperatures, especially if the sun is up during shift hours. Heavyweight base layers should be reserved for below freezing temperatures or at night when there is no sunlight. Remember the main goal of the base layer is to wick moisture away from the skin.


The middle layer is the insulating layer which should effectively trap and retain body heat. These garments should also wick moisture but the main goal of this layer is to keep the body warm. Wool and fleece sweatshirts and jackets are effective insulating pieces. Fleece will keep your workers warm and dry quickly if it gets damp. Down and synthetic insulated jackets can offer more weight as a middle layer, but will still require an outer shell for wind and rain protection. With a moisture-wicking base layer combined with an insulating middle layer, your team can build up a sweat as they work but remain comfortable in their garments without having to undress or re-layer throughout the day. Knowing how to layer saves time in the long-run and optimizes productivity by keeping workers safe and warm for an extended period in cold weather.


The outer layer is the shell that protects the body from various weather conditions. It should be wind, rain and snow resistant and serve as a shield over the inner layers. Look for terms like “wind-resistant” and “waterproof” to find the best outer layer garments. Waterproof breathable raingear, parkas and jackets tend to be more expensive but offer more protection, durability and comfort. Water-resistant outer layer garments may offer less protection in heavy rain or harsher weather conditions, but can still offer breathability. Be wary of outer layer options that do not offer as much breathability if your workers are more active and prone to sweat during their shift. For the same reason you don’t want workers wearing cotton as a base layer, a non-breathable outer layer will trap in any sweat and create a cold experience under this shell.


Understanding the importance of layering in cold weather allows workers to stay safe, comfortable and productive on the job. Many garments made for people who work outdoors are sold separately. Teach your workers a layering system with instructions on which pieces should be put on before others. At Reflective Apparel, our Systems Gear is designed to have interchangeable parkas, jackets, and sweatshirts. Even if your workers decide not to wear each layer, knowing the function and recognizing how each piece works can help them make informed decisions in future situations. For example, understanding which garments work best as the inner and outermost layers will allow them to experience the most warmth and least discomfort from water, whether it’s in the form of sweat or rain.

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