Protective clothing ensembles and physical employment standards
journal contributionposted on 10.02.2016, 11:04 by Tom M. McLellan, George Havenith
Physical employment standards (PESs) exist for certain occupational groups that also require the use of protective clothing ensembles (PCEs) during their normal work. This review addresses whether these current PESs appropriately incorporate the physiological burden associated with wearing PCEs during respective tasks. Metabolic heat production increases due to wearing PCE; this increase is greater than that due simply to the weight of the clothing and can vary two-fold among individuals. This variation negates a simple adjustment to the PES for the effect of the clothing on metabolic rate. As a result, PES testing that only simulates the weight of the clothing and protective equipment does not adequately accommodate this effect. The physiological heat strain associated with the use of PCEs is also not addressed with current PESs. Typically the selection tests of a PES lasts less than 20 minutes whereas the requirement for use of PCE in the workplace may approach one hour before cooling strategies could be employed. One option that might be considered is to construct a heat stress test that requires new recruits and incumbents to work for a predetermined duration while exposed to a warm environmental temperature, wearing the PCE.