Thermal Environment

Thermal EnvironmentGully Howard Technical’s qualified Chartered Occupational Hygienists can conduct workplace assessments of hot and cold work environments and predict thermal comfort satisfaction levels in office buildings and factories. Control measures to reduce such thermal stress can also be provided. The human body has a core temperature of ~37oC, if this temperature is raised or lowered by more than 2oC then serious health outcomes can occur. Staff can be exposed to heat or cold due to the climatic conditions of their work location or due to the industry that they work.


Heat Stress

Heat stress is the name given to a range of conditions associated with exposure to hot environments. However, in addition to the heat strain imposed by the working environment (a combination of the radiant and air temperature, relative humidity and air velocity) heat stress is normally influenced by contributing factors such as the level of physical exertion and the degree of clothing worn (such as personal protective clothing).

Heat stress is associated with serious medical conditions which can be fatal. However, in more typical working environments (such as offices) ‘thermal comfort’ can be more of an issue. People working in uncomfortably hot or cold environments may lose their ability to fully concentrate on tasks and hence errors are likely to increase.

Thermal Comfort

Thermal comfort is defined as that condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment. It is accepted that it is not possible to keep everyone in the workplace happy with the thermal environment, but keeping at least 80% of staff satisfied is considered to be an achievable target by the HSE. The percentage of staff satisfied with their thermal comfort can be predicted using a standard assessment method which takes into account of 6 different parameters which are independent of each other, but together contribute to a worker’s thermal comfort.

Cold Stress

Cold stress is defined as a thermal load on the body under which greater than normal heat losses are anticipated and therefore compensatory thermo-regulatory actions are required to maintain the body’s normal core temperature. Cold environments can cause serious health effects when the body’s core temperature falls below 350C, extreme cold can also cause local injury at the extremities of the body (fingers and toes).

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