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ISO 12894:2001


Ergonomics of the thermal environment -- Medical supervision of individuals exposed to extreme hot or cold environments

This International Standard provides advice to those concerned with the safety of human exposures to extreme hot or cold thermal environments. Extreme thermal environments are those which result in a high rate of heat gain or loss by the body. A precise definition of such environments cannot easily be given, as the change in body heat storage depends on clothing and activity as well as the parameters of the climatic environment. As a guide, the boundaries of extreme environments might be considered to be as follows: for hot environments, a wet bulb globe temperature of 25 °C; for cold environments an air temperature of 0 °C or below.

Extreme environments can only be tolerated for limited periods of time before a risk of ill health results. Control measures are necessary to ensure the safety of those so exposed, one of which is the provision of appropriate medical supervision prior to and during exposures.

This International Standard is intended to assist those with responsibility for such exposures to reach decisions about the appropriate level of medical supervision in different situations. This International Standard should be read and used in the context of other relevant guidance and legislation.

This guidance is applicable to laboratory and occupational exposures to extreme environments. In either case an assessment should be made of the expected thermal stress on the individual, but the detailed arrangements for medical supervision will differ. Control of occupational exposures must also satisfy national health and safety legislation.

The laboratory or climatic chamber studies for which this International Standard will be relevant include those in which people may be exposed to high or low ambient conditions or local heating or cooling. Studies may, for example, investigate physiological or psychophysical responses to the environment or the benefit of clothing or other protective equipment. Scientific investigations and demonstrations for teaching purposes are included in the scope. In some countries, such studies are subject to specific legislation and, in all cases, experimental exposures should be conducted in the context of accepted ethical criteria as detailed in relevant national and international statements (see informative annex A and the bibliography).

Extremes of environment may be only one component of the total physiological stress imposed in a study. In such cases, appropriate advice must also be obtained with regard to any medical supervision required prior to exposure to the other stressors involved, for example whole body vibration.

In some cases, ergonomic investigations are conducted in the field, for example, to document the physiological stress of particular occupations. If the overall stress of the task is increased as a result of the proposed study, this International Standard will be relevant.

This International Standard does not apply to the use of hypo or hyper thermia in the course of medical investigation or treatment.

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