You are on page 1of 1


Assessment of Heat Stress

Before heat stress can be controlled, conditions conducive to its occurrence must be recognized. This session will introduce commonly implemented methods of heat stress
assessment, and methods by which exposures can be eliminated or, at least, prevented.
2. Physiological Markers

• Physiologica l responses can be used as a primary indicator of heat stress conditions .
• The most easily measured responses
• oral temperature -which can be ascertained by use of traditional thermometers or more sophisticated electronic devices,
• heart rate - w hich can be determined by palpitation of an artery with the fingertips to detect pulse, and
• water loss - which can be accomp lished by determining the change in body weight from the beginningto the end of a heat exposure period.
• Monitoring of individuals exposed to heat may allow determination as to whether more detailed assessment of heat-related conditions are necessary or not.
3. Worker Behaviors
• Physiological responses are not the only indicators of heat stress conditions. Often those exposed to hot environments may behave in such ways that are indicative of
their discomfort.
• Typical behaviors which might provide indication of heat stress conditions include
• clothing ad ustment in an effort to increase evaporative losses,
• slow ing or pausing of the work to lower the metabolic rate, and
• modifying the activity, or taking short-cuts in required methods, in attempt of completing the necessary task requirements.
• Attitudes, such as irritability, low morale, and absenteeism, and an increase in errors or unsafe practices, are often indicators of heat stressful conditions which
might prompt further, more deta iled, evaluative measures.
4. Determining Assessment Needs
• Responses to a few basic questions can provide an indication of whethe r or not heat stress conditions are present, and whether more detailed evaluative measures are
necessary. Affirmative responses to any of the questions posed may be indicative of the need for further evaluation. These include
• Is the environment hot, are the work demands high, or is protective clothing required?
• Again, hot environments, physically demanding tasks, or use of protective clothing can certainly serve as pre-disposing conditions for exposure to elevated
• Are the behaviors of representative individuals suggestive of attempts to reduce exposures to heat?
• Individuals who are apparent ly attempting to reduce their
exposures to heat may provide indication of possible heat stress problems.
These behaviors might include adjusting their clothing in an effort to increase air circulation, or perhaps taking short breaks to 'catch their breath'.
• Do medical records suggest a
• Medical records may not be available in all instances but, if they are, they may be reviewed to determine reported ailments suggestive
of heat-related trends or patterns.
• And, are body temperature, heart rate, or sweat losses elevated?
• Simple measurements of these physiologica l parameters can serve as initialwarning signs of problematic hot conditions.
5. Assessment by Measurement
• There are severa l methods for
assessing heat stress, some are more user-friend ly than others.
• The Heat Stress Index (HSI) requires measurement of wet and dry bulb temperatures, globe temperature, air velocity, and metabolic heat. The sum of the
metabolic heat and environmenta l heat is then used to calculate the evaporative requirements of the job. Although the index considers all environmenta l
factors and work rate,it is not completely satisfactory for determining an individual worker's heat stress and is also difficult to use.
• The Effective Temperature (ET) index combines the temperature,the humidity of the air, and air velocity. This index has been used extensively in ttne field of comfort
ventilation and air conditioning. ET remains a useful measurement technique in mines and other places where humidity is high and radiant heat is low.
• The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is an often used method of assessing worke·r exposure to heat stress, is typically used by compliance officers representing the
OccupationalSafety and Health Admin istration (OSHA), and will therefore, for the purposes of this course, be the primary method of heat stress assessment. Use of the
WBGT method requires not only determination of the physical WBGT, but also of the metabolic rates fo r the specific tasks performed in the hot environment.
6. Work-Load Determination
The first step for using the WBGT method is to determine the wo rk-load demands of the restpective job. This assessment may be performed by considering the energy requirements
for various tasks, as detailed in the table presented on the next slide (the table is used courtesy of NIOSH, 1986). Generally,
• light wor k is considered to require
less than 200 kcal of energy per hour,
• medium work is considered to require from 200-350 kcal of energy per hour, and
• heavy work is considered to require from 350-500 kcal of energy per hour.