Exposure to excessive heat is a physical hazard that threatens Canadian workers. As patterns of global climate change suggest an increased frequency of heat waves, the potential impact of these extreme climate events on the health and well-being of the Canadian workforce is a new and growing challenge. Increasingly, industries rely on available technology and information to ensure the safety of their workers. Current Canadian labor codes in all provinces employ the guidelines recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) that are Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) based upon Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT). The TLVs are set so that core body temperature of the workers supposedly does not exceed 38.0 degrees C. Legislation in most Canadian provinces also requires employers to install engineering and administrative controls to reduce the heat stress risk of their working environment should it exceed the levels permissible under the WBGT system. There are however severe limitations using the WGBT system because it only directly evaluates the environmental parameters and merely incorporates personal factors such as clothing insulation and metabolic heat production through simple correction factors for broadly generalized groups. An improved awareness of the strengths and limitations of TLVs and the WGBT index can minimize preventable measurement errors and improve their utilization in workplaces. Work is on-going, particularly in the European Union to develop an improved individualized heat stress risk assessment tool. More work is required to improve the predictive capacity of these indices.
Copyright 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.