By NSA Marketing team
What is Heat-Stress?
Heat stress refers to the body’s inability to perform its natural cooling process, resulting in a failure to regulate body temperature. This can result in fatigue, dizziness and ultimately, heat stroke. While heat stress can be attributed to external factors like temperature, other factors such as workplace uniforms and work environment can also contribute to the impact of heat on the body.
The Challenges Associated with Hot Weather and PPE
A worker may not consciously realize the effect of his or her garments on core body temperature. In reaction to a rising body temperature, a worker may roll up sleeves, unbutton a collar or leave a shirt untucked, leaving them non-compliant and at increased risk of injury. OSHA cites the “use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment as a factor that puts workers at a greater risk for heat-related illness.” As much as 89% of workers have observed fellow workers failing to wear personal protective equipment because of discomfort. When building a personal protective equipment (PPE) program for use in hot weather environments, special consideration must be given to keep workers as safe and comfortable as possible on the job.
Total Heat Loss (THL): A Key Measurement for Evaluating FR Garments
Total heat loss (THL) is a method that measures the maximum workload or metabolic activity rate a person can sustain while maintaining thermal comfort in PPE. THL measures the amount of conductive (dry) and evaporative (wet) heat loss that occurs through the fabric of a PPE garment.
By placing fabric samples on specially designed plates that simulate hot, sweaty skin under controlled lab conditions, the ability of the fabric to transfer heat can be precisely measured. In hot conditions, a fabric that holds less heat is more desirable to allow excess heat to move away from the body. When specifying protective clothing, a garment’s THL performance should be taken into consideration. Employees in physical roles may face discomfort, physiological strain, decreased productivity and performance, and potentially increased accident rates on the job. A work uniform with better THL performance can have an impact on these challenges.
The Importance of Comfort
Comfort increases compliance…
- Comfortable PPE is more likely to be worn
- High-performance PPE reduces improper use, eliminating the need to roll up sleeves, unbutton collars and leave shirts untucked
Comfort reduces distraction…
- Comfortable workers can focus on the task at hand
- Results in less mistakes and safer work practices
Comfort reduces the risk of heat stroke…
- Lightweight garments that breathe do not impair the body’s natural cooling process
- Moisture management aids in cooling
Based on end user research, a comfortable garment has three important characteristics:
- Lightweight – Fabric that will not weigh the user down
- Breathable – Allows heat and air to flow through, without getting trapped in
- Moisture Wicking - Pulls moisture out and away from the body
Selecting the Right FR Garments for Hot Environments
When evaluating uniform choices, specifiers should consider how each work uniform will affect worker safety and comfort level, which can have an impact on overall productivity5. Each garment should be assessed not only in terms of breathability but moisture-wicking ability and weight as well. The more employees can customize their personal uniform using garment layers, the better the chances they will remain comfortable, safe and compliant.
This article was originally published on the NSA Blog, July 17, 2017.
PK Safety experts are here to help you with finding the proper protection solution for your application. Call us at 800-829-9580, or visit us online at pksafety.com.