Heat illness is a serious health concern, not a perception issue; as we approach summers,heat stress is a serious illness that can affect workers working in high temperature areas for long periods. Exposure to extreme heat or hot environments is one of the most dangerous hazards in the workplacecan result in a number of different heat-related illnesses, the most common ones are heat cramps,  heat rash, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat stress has a number of stages, and timely and appropriate intervention can stop or reverse the progression.

Regulating body temperature in warmer months can be challenging under even the most normal circumstances. However, situations requiring flame-resistant (FR) garments can create extra obstacles due to the natural insulation properties of FR clothing.

We sometimes underestimate how serious it can be. But the truth is, thousands of workers are affected by heat stress every year. Heat stress takes place when the human body is no longer able to maintain its normal temperature. This overheating can be caused by hot and/or humid ambient conditions, or by metabolic heat generated by hard physical work, or both.

A FR garment’s total heat loss (THL) rating should be a key consideration when heat stress is a challenge. Most commonly used in the firefighting industry, THL is a method to measure the maximum workload or metabolic activity rate a person can sustain while maintaining thermal comfort in a garment.THL combines the performance of several fabric properties, including air permeability and moisture wicking.

Lowering heat stress should be considered an important part of managing safety in a warmer workplace. By specifying garments that are lightweight, breathable and moisture-wicking, safety managers can help prevent heat-related accidents and injuries.

In addition to preventing accidents, selecting the right FR garment can help increase productivity as workers may require fewer, shorter breaks and less time off related to heat stress issues.

For more information, OSHA has a helpful FactSheet on Protecting Workers From the Effects of Heat.