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Controlling thermal comfort

There are a number of ways that you can control thermal comfort in the workplace, some of which are very simple.

Control measures

There are six main control methods you can use:

Control the environment

Separate the source of heat or cold from the employee

Control the task

Control the clothing

Allow  the employee to make behavioural adaptations

Monitor the employee

Administrative controls

Administrative controls include planning and rescheduling work times and practices and rest schedules, for example, scheduling ‘hot’ work for cooler times of the day or allowing employees to have flexible hours to help avoid the worst effects of working in high temperatures.

Administrative controls are generally of a short-term, temporary nature. Although some can be of a permanent nature, for example, emergency procedures and the provision of appropriate welfare facilities, such as competent first aiders with additional knowledge in the management and recognition of heat-related illnesses and injuries as well as ensuring the availability of appropriate first-aid equipment.

Engineering controls

These should be the first choice to reduce or eliminate the hazard. Although the initial cost of engineering controls may seem high, it has been found that the implementation cost is often offset by the resulting improvements to production.

Any practical solution to controlling thermal comfort is likely to require a combination of different options developed in consultation with employers, employees and their representatives.

Heating

Many types of heating systems are available:

Most of these systems are useful. However, the beneficial effects may be restricted in some situations to the immediate locality of the heat source.

Air movement

There are many methods for increasing air movement, ie fans of various sizes (but may cause draught or noise problems).

Large diameter ceiling fans can provide air movement that is effective over a wide area. Large exhaust fans, mounted in roofs and walls, are useful for removing heated air and drawing in cooler air from outside.

Air conditioning

This can range from small units that lower the air temperature but do not control humidity levels or air movement, to large units that can cope with extreme conditions as well as humidity and air movement.

When air conditioning systems are used, take care to ensure uniform air distribution throughout the workplace, otherwise some employees may complain of feeling cold while others are feeling hot.

Air conditioning units should be operated as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Evaporative cooling

Evaporative coolers produce a moderate reduction in air temperature and increase humidity. They operate by passing hot air over water-saturated pads and the water evaporation effect reduces the air temperature.

Thermal insulation

There are many different types of thermal insulation materials, eg loose fills, rock wool and insulation boards. The material acts as a barrier, which slows heat flow in the summer and heat loss in the winter, but it is only effective where there is a temperature difference between the inside and the outside of the building or between two areas inside a building.

2015-06-15