The Physiological Assessment: One goal but many paths.

Heart & Steth







In a recent conversation with a colleague on the topic of physiological monitoring the discussion touched on the lack of a formal method for the assessment of the physiological impact on an individual from heat stress. The suite of ISO standards 9886, 8996, 9920 etc have always been of value for me as have the WHO and ACGIH guidelines. Going back even further, the work done by Leithead & Lind in the US, L. Brouha in Canada and A. J. Keilblock and C. H. Wyndham in the South African mines produced some enlightening concepts in this approach.  I have to admit that this is not my area of expertise, acknowledging that I tend to focus in the industrial area (some might say blinkered) and we need to look across to other disciplines. For example the work done by sports physiologists and occupational physicians can be of great value here.

But what are the key parameters when it comes to doing these assessments? Is it heart rate, core temperature, hydration state, body mass loss, VO2 max or all of the fore mentioned? Is this practical?   This is a specialist area and I know that some readers of this blog are very accomplished practitioners in this area and I would ask:

  1. Are we all doing it the same way?
  2. Is there a standardised approach to this assessment?

With the advent of new and easy to use technology in this area it is important that new practitioners understand what the information they collect is telling them (and not telling them).

If the answer to either of questions 1 and 2 above is no then is it time that something was developed?

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1 Comment

  • Pete Aspinall says:

    While monitoring physiological response should be included in any robust management plan, it would be dangerous to rely on any formal methods alone to prevent heat stress exposures. These physiological assessments are only identifying potential problems as they occur.
    An increase in the use of task specific risk assessments (using the recently developed Heat Stress Risk App), early identification of potential high risk activities and alerts for “high risk hot days” is required to reduce the exposure risks.
    From my experience, any recommendations for hard controls to prevent or minimise heat exposures need good forward planning and time to implement.
    Educating workers and supervisors in methods to identify potential heat stress exposures *before they occur* should be a critical aspect of any Heat Stress Management Plan.

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