Methods of Controlling Thermal Conditions

Methods of Controlling Thermal Conditions

Exposures to environmental heat stress are generally controlled by utilizing a combination of controls. Control strategies for hot and cold environments can be grouped into three categories personal protective equipment and clothing, administrative controls and engineering controls (Burgess-Limerick, Steiner, & Horberry, 2010, p. 94).

Engineering controls

The primary engineering control for decreasing convective heat gain and increasing evaporative heat loss is the use of air conditioning in work areas, control rooms, equipment cabs, and rest or break areas. The primary engineering controls used to modify hot or cold environments are adequate heating, and ventilation as well as air-conditioning (McCauley-Bush, 2011, p. 86). Heating and air-conditioning systems modify both air temperature and humidity and are the first choice for improving many inside developments (Landry & Lehto, 2012, p. 167). The second strategy is to increase the air flow around the people to increase evaporative cooling. This strategy is only effective at lower humidity levels. Effectiveness also depends upon how rapidly the air is moving when it contacts a person and location of the fan. The third engineering control strategy is to place heat-producing equipment and processes in locations where most of the people do not go. Another solution is to provide an air-conditioned space for assembling operations. Air-conditioned rest or break areas are also provided (McCauley-Bush, 2011, p. 86). However, it is useful to combine these techniques to amplify the reduction efforts to minimize the impact of the heat source.

Administrative controls

A wide variety of administrative controls can be helpful when engineering controls are inadequate or infeasible. Developing ways of reducing the metabolic demands associated with the task is perhaps the most fundamental strategy. This can be done through many ways. Equipments can be provided that help people perform some of the heavier tasks such as lifting. The number of personnel can also be increased to reduce the amount of demanding work each worker must do. A second strategy is to take steps to increase the tolerance of employees to heat. This includes taking steps to ensure employees in stressful conditions receive adequate water and salt, and are properly acclimated to the conditions (Landry & Lehto, 2012, p. 169). Additional administrative controls include scheduling outdoor jobs for the cooler part of the day, adding breaks at appropriate intervals, job sharing, and fluid replacement options throughout task performance. This includes worker monitoring activities to further reduce the likelihood for heat stress.

Protective clothing and Personal cooling devices

Protective clothing is an important solution in cold outdoor environments, and also plays a useful role in hot environments. Clothing protects people from the cold by providing one or more layers of insulation between a persons’ skin and the atmospheric environmental (Landry & Lehto, 2012, p. 170). Personal cooling devices include water-cooled garments, air-cooled garments, cooling vests, and wetted over-garments. Whilst these devices provide effective cooling capacity, there are limitations regarding weight, mobility, length of cooling period, comfort and maintenance. Reductions in performance levels may also result from wearing these devices. Because of these limitations, personal cooling devices are generally used for tasks that do not involve heavy physical labor and high mobility requirements such as operating equipment.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that it is better to eliminate heat stress rather than rely on a lower level of control, such as administrative.


Burgess-Limerick, R., Steiner, L. J., & Horberry, T. J. (2010). Human Factors for the Design, Operation, and Maintenance of Mining Equipment. CRC Press.

Landry, S. J., & Lehto, M. R. (2012). Introduction to Human Factors and Ergonomics for Engineers, Second Edition (2, illustrated, revised ed.). CRC Press.

McCauley-Bush, P. (2011). Ergonomics: Foundational Principles, Applications, and Technologies (illustrated ed.). CRC Press.

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