Global temperatures are rising, and with that summers are getting hotter. People who work in hot and humid conditions, or those who work outdoors in warm climates, are increasingly at risk of heat stress and its lasting negative effects. While PPE is designed to keep the wearer as safe as possible in the workplace, it can also affect the body’s ability to manage heat. CHARNAUD® has been manufacturing and supplying industry-leading PPE for almost 5 decades and continues to produce PPE that is more comfortable, more breathable, and internationally certified for a myriad of industries, including those where employees work in hot environments.
What Are the Causes of Heat Stress?
The human body actively cools itself through evaporative cooling, where our sweat carries heat to the skin’s surface, facilitating evaporation and aiding in temperature regulation. However, efficient self-cooling becomes challenging in extremely hot external conditions or prolonged exposure to heat without proper hydration. Heat stress poses significant risks, potentially leading to various complications associated with heat-related illnesses. Besides underlying health conditions, common causes of heat stress encompass dehydration, inadequate rest or breaks, and prolonged sun exposure. The influence of PPE on the body’s cooling capacity depends on various factors beyond the PPE itself.
Does PPE Affect How The Body Manages Heat?
Employees must not disregard the use of their PPE, as it serves as their ultimate defense against job-related hazards. To assist employees in both staying protected by their PPE and remaining comfortable while minimizing the risk of heat stress, employers can take several measures.
To begin, employers should be mindful of how the workplace environment may contribute to potential heat stress. If reducing the environmental impact of heat stress proves challenging, alternative factors must be considered. One option is providing employees with single-layer arc-rated FR garments when feasible. Loose-fitting clothing can also aid the body in regulating heat, though it may pose hazards in specific situations. Additional strategies to contemplate include the choice of garment colors; dark colors absorb heat, whereas lighter colors facilitate heat dissipation. Additionally, some clothing fibers excel at dissipating heat, although they may not always align with the specific hazards associated with the employees’ tasks.
Effective heat stress management represents an ongoing commitment for numerous organizations. It demands a careful equilibrium between ensuring employee comfort, maintaining their safety and ensuring the compliance of their PPE with safety standards.
Protective clothing can partially mitigate heat stress effects. Contrary to intuition, breathable single-layer protective clothing has minimal impact on heat stress. This applies to arc-rated (AR), flame-resistant (FR), and non-FR clothing too. How does protective clothing influence heat stress? The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) explains how specific protective clothing types affect heat stress. Breathable garments and fabrics, as well as those aiding heat management, make the most sense. Interestingly, ACGIH indicates that wearing a single layer of clothing or woven cloth over undergarments results in a Clothing Adjustment Factor (CAF) rated as zero, thus not contributing to wearer heat stress.
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Safety First, Always
For Quality Safety Garments- Get in Touch with CHARNAUD®
CHARNAUD® is a supplier of quality PPE for a variety of professions. We can help workers of all occupations to protect themselves against the hazards of their daily tasks. Contact us for advice and quotations on PPE for your business.
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