One of the most important elements to take into account when assessing risk and selecting the appropriate protective equipment is the thermal stress the worker will experience.
Thermal stress is defined as the heat load that workers undergo, which then accumulates in their body. Thermal stress is caused by the interaction between the environmental conditions in the workplace, any physical activity carried out and the clothing worn.
Thermal stress is not just one pathological effect on workers caused by heat, but rather the result of several pathological effects that occur when excessive heat builds up in the body.
When working under conditions of thermal stress, the body undergoes changes. The worker suffers a physiological overload as the temperature rises, as the body’s physiological mechanisms try to lose the excessive heat building up in the body (primarily through sweating and peripheral vasodilation). If the core body temperature of an individual exceeds 38°C despite these measures, the result is harmful to the worker’s health, with the severity of the damage depending on the amount of heat that has accumulated in the body. It is therefore imperative to provide the proper equipment to protect workers from their work environment.
The intensity of the thermal stress and the severity of its effects depends on three determining factors. Thermal stress is higher when the three factors occur together. This can happen in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces where heat and humidity are inherent to the work process, such as smelters, furnaces, ceramics, in emergency work, etc.
An additional factor to take into consideration when selecting the appropriate PPE is the time of exposure to the heat (in hours of work). If the worker will be subjected to a long period of thermal stress, the worker can accumulate dangerous levels of heat even if there is a low level of thermal stress.
All these aspects are studied and taken into account by ITS as input data to factor into the design of our PPE. This means we can offer PPE that is fully tailored to the needs of workers in sectors that require thermal protection for the most extreme situations.