A comfortable work environment is the result of a balance between temperature, humidity, and air distribution. The ambient environment is important because it influences the rate at which a person’s body heat is exchanged with the environment and consequently, the ease with which the body maintains a normal temperature. Ideally, everyone should have a comfortable working environment; however, there are some jobs that require people to work in extremely cold or hot temperatures. If you have employees who are exposed to extreme temperature conditions, you need to ensure that they are adequately protected.
Many people spend at least part of their working day in a hot environment. Hot workplace conditions can lead to harmful heat stress. Heat stress may result in several illnesses as well as decreased productivity and increased likelihood of injuries. In foundries, steel mills, bakeries, smelters, and glass factories, extremely hot or molten material is the main source of heat. Outdoor occupations such as construction, road repair, logging, telecommunications, electric power utilities, and agriculture expose workers to summer sunshine and heat. In laundries, restaurant kitchens, and canneries, high humidity adds to the heat burden. All these situations have the potential to create a work environment which can overcome the body’s ability to deal with heat.
People who work in freezer plants, meat-packing houses, cold storage facilities, lumbering, telecommunications, and electric utilities are often exposed to cold environments. The frequency of worker accidents is higher in cold environments because nerve impulses are inhibited and hands can stiffen and become clumsy. Temperature-related safety problems include ice, snow blindness, reflections from snow, and burns from skin contact with cold, metal surfaces.
The main factors contributing to cold injury are exposure to humidity and high winds, contact with wetness or metal, inadequate clothing, age, and general health. Contributing physical conditions include allergies, vascular disease, excessive smoking and drinking, sedative drugs, and some medicines. Cold disorders are classified as generalized as in hypothermia or localized such as frostbite.
The following information provides guidance to help make your workers’ job conditions as comfortable as possible without compromising their safety and health.
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