Maintenance of thermal comfort is important to ensure a safe, healthy and productive workplace. The sensation of feeling hot or cold is not only dependent on air temperature, but relies on a complex relationship between environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, air movement and radiant heat, as well as personal factors such as the level of activity and insulation afforded by clothing.
When the temperature deviates from the optimum for comfort, employees may first experience discomfort that are of a subjective nature, but eventually physical problems that impair health and productivity are incurred. The concept of thermal comfort is closely related to thermal stress, i.e. heat stress and cold stress.
Heat stress is experienced when the upper tolerance limits of the body are reached, and employees may suffer from conditions such as heat fatigue, or even heat stroke with potential fatal consequences. Cold stress is when the body is unable to retain enough heat, which may result in, shivering, fatigue, frostbite, confusion and loss of consciousness.
The thermal requirements of the Environmental Regulations for Workplaces, OHSAct (85 of 1993) makes provision for both heat and cold stress, and include the following:
- Where the WBGT index determined over one hour exceeds 30 °C, control measures such as medical surveillance, acclimatization and training must be implemented.
- Where the dry bulb temperature taken over a four hour period falls below 6 °C indoors, or below 6 °C at any time outdoors, reasonable steps must be taken to protect employees against the cold.
- Employees working in refrigerated environments must be provided with thermal protective clothing, medical surveillance, and the time spent in the refrigerated environment may not exceed the periods prescribed by the regulations.
OCSA is an Approved Inspection Authority for the evaluation of thermal comfort and conducts thermal comfort surveys to ensure that your business complies with statutory requirements where employees may be exposed to extremes of temperature. Our thermal comfort surveys include a comprehensive assessment of all the environmental and personal factors that contribute to heat or cold stress and we provide you with practical advice to prevent heat or cold related disorders and to maximize the productivity of employees.
OCSA provides the following thermal comfort surveys:
- Heat stress surveys (WBGT-index evaluations).
- Cold stress surveys, both indoors and outdoors.
- Evaluate thermal conditions in refrigerated environments against statutory requirements.