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Ann Occup Hyg. 1999 Jul;43(5):297-308.

International standards for the assessment of the risk of thermal strain on clothed workers in hot environments.

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  • 1Human Thermal Environments Laboratory, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK.


The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has produced an integrated series of international standards for the assessment of human responses to thermal environments. They include standards for the assessment of thermal comfort, heat stress and cold stress and many have been adopted as European and British standards. This paper describes the series of standards and in particular those concerned with the assessment of risk in hot environments. A three tier approach is taken which involves a simple thermal index that can be used for monitoring and control of hot environments (ISO 7243), a rational approach which involves an analysis of the heat exchange between a worker and his or her environment (ISO 7933) and a standard that describes the principles of physiological measurement which can be used in the establishment of personal monitoring systems of workers exposed to hot environments (ISO 9886). The standards are self-contained and can be used independently. In any comprehensive assessment however they would be used in conjunction. The simple index provides a first stage analysis and can confirm whether or not there is likely to be unacceptable thermal strain. Where a more detailed analysis is required then ISO 7933 provides an analytical method that can provide a more extensive assessment and interpretation leading to recommendations for improvement to the working environment. Where a method needs to be confirmed, or conditions are beyond the scope of ISO 7243 and ISO 7933, then ISO 9886 provides guidance on physiological measurement and interpretation. This would be used in extreme environments where individual responses are required to ensure health and safety or, in the case where personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn, which is beyond the scope of ISO 7243 and ISO 7933. The ISO system therefore covers almost all exposures to hot environments. It would be useful however to extend the scope of the standards that provide a simple index or analytical approach. This paper describes the current standards and their scope and forms the basis and background for descriptions of proposed extensions to the scope of the standards described in other papers in this special issue.

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