Thermal stress includes both heat and cold stress. These conditions arise when temperatures become too extreme for the body to handle and try to compensate for. The body’s temperature will decrease in the case of cold stress, causing a potentially life-threatening condition called hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below 95° F (35° C). A person experiencing hypothermia must be insulated from the cold and otherwise gently warmed to bring up the core body temperature.
More commonly, when there is more heat than the body can dissipate, heat stress can occur in various forms. These may include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and, most serious of all, heat stroke. Awareness of the potential for heat stress and drinking lots of fluids can help minimize the potential for trouble.
The EH&S Office can monitor workplace environments for conditions likely to cause heat stress and provide recommendations for work-rest regimens to allow acclimatization and prevent injury.