On the use of wearable physiological monitors to assess heat strain during occupational heat stress

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018 Sep;43(9):869-881. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2018-0173. Epub 2018 May 4.


Workers in many industries are required to perform arduous work in high heat-stress conditions, which can lead to rapid increases in body temperature that elevate the risk of heat-related illness and even death. Traditionally, effort to mitigate work-related heat injury has been directed toward the assessment of environmental heat stress (e.g., wet-bulb globe temperature), rather than toward the associated physiological strain responses (e.g., heart rate and skin and core temperatures). However, because a worker's physiological response to a given heat stress is modified independently by inter-individual factors (e.g., age, sex, chronic disease, others) and intra-individual factors both within (e.g., medication use, fitness, acclimation and hydration state, others) and beyond (e.g., shift duration, illness, others) the worker's control, it becomes challenging to protect workers on an individual basis from heat-related injury without assessing those physiological responses. Recent advancements in wearable technology have made it possible to monitor one or more physiological indices of heat strain. Nonetheless, information on the utility of the wearable systems available for assessing occupational heat strain is unavailable. This communication is therefore directed toward identifying the physiological indices of heat strain that may be quantified in the workplace and evaluating the wearable monitoring systems available for assessing those responses. Finally, emphasis is placed on the barriers associated with implementing these devices to assist in mitigating work-related heat injury. This information is fundamental for protecting worker health and could also be utilized to prevent heat illnesses in vulnerable people during leisure or athletic activities.

Keywords: body core temperature; contrainte thermique; heat strain; monitoring; performance au travail; surveillance; technologie portable; température corporelle centrale; wearable technology; work performance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature
  • Heart Rate
  • Heat Stress Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Skin Temperature
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Wearable Electronic Devices*