Q: How do cooling towels work?
A: Working in hot environments presents its challenges, one of which heat exhaustion and heat stroke. According to OSHA, heat stroke was the likely cause of 18 workplace fatalities in 2018 and 13 in 2017. For this reason, heat stress and heat stroke should be assessed and controlled in the same serious manner as other critical hazards, like falls or being struck by equipment.
We can’t control the weather, and removing employees from hot environments is not always a viable option. So, we are often left relying mainly on administrative controls and PPE to mitigate hot weather hazards.
Cooling towels are specialty PPE for hot weather work that is designed to help workers regulate their body temperature to a comfortable level so they can work longer without suffering the effects of heat stress. Let’s go over how they work.
Why a Towel?
While it seems strange for a piece of PPE and it doesn’t look like it offers any substantial physical protection, a towel makes total sense when talking about heat stress.
Our neck and shoulders are not only directly exposed to sun and implicitly to warming, but they are also big muscles that generate large amounts of heat that need to be dissipated in order to keep our body cool and not overheat.
A towel is also versatile. Besides being worn over the shoulders, it can be placed over the head or any other part of the body that needs cooling.
How Does It Work?
Cooling towels sold as PPE are no different than those used by runners, bikers, or hikers and serve the same purpose. Towels work through evaporative cooling. Just like sweating, it directs the heat away from the body.
The towel is immersed in cold water and then pressed to leave it wet, but not dripping. Not only does the wet towel feel pleasant because it is cool, but the temperature differential between the user’s body and the towel will help transfer heat from the body to the towel. The heat is then lost through evaporation, providing a cooling effect.
The cooling effect is more potent in low to medium humidity environments, since the drier the environmental air, the faster the rate of evaporation and the stronger the cooling effect.
In humid environments, the towel will still absorb heat from the body, but since the air is saturated with humidity, the water from the towel will not evaporate, effectively storing the heat. So, the cooling effect will be short-lived. In these environments, you will have to soak the towels in cold water more frequently to “recharge” it when it warms or dries up.
The towel also acts as a physical barrier against the sun, preventing its rays from reaching and heating the skin. For this reason, a light-colored towel is preferable, since it absorbs less radiation (heat) than dark colors. A towel with a higher UPF is also preferable since it will provide additional UV protection, which is important for people working for extended periods outdoors.
More Than Just Towels
Although cooling towels are a common and simple option, many other versions of this product exist, including cooling bands, bandanas, and hard hat pads, which can be placed under a hard hat for all-day cooling relief. These other types of products work the same way, but the way they are worn may be more comfortable or practical for certain types of workers or conditions.
Other Recent Questions
- How do cooling towels work?
- What’s an efficient way to account for everyone in the event of an on-site emergency?
- Who should be responsible for rescuing fallen workers?
- When should workers use polarized safety glasses?
- Q & A: What PPE should I use when working at home?
- Q & A: What are the Types of scaffold’s load?
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Questions & Answers
- What procedure should we follow to reactivate equipment that has been locked out?
- What are some of the guidelines around using back support belts in the workplace?
- What is the difference between a hazard and a risk?
- Are nitrile gloves safe?
- Bump Testing Gas Detector 6 Important Questions
- Online Quiz:The Lab Safety Symbols
- Can you wear any pair of earmuffs with a hard hat?
- Online Quiz:Health and Safety Signs
- Online Quiz:Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Online Quiz:Construction Safety -Excavation
- What is Meaning of %LEL , %UEL , PID
- Online Quiz:Ladder safety, Test your self
- Online Quiz:Electrical safety, Test your self
- Fall Protection Systems Quiz Test Your Knowledge
- What is the general safety Rules and apply to whom?
- What can we do about rain protection for arc flash work?
- What is a self-retracting fall protection device?
- What is the difference between primary and secondary spill containment?
- How does dehydration impact workplace safety?
- What is the difference between safety goggles and glasses?
- Safety interview Questions and Answers Part 2
- Safety interview Questions and Answers Part 1