2006 Volume 44 Issue 3 Pages 388-398
Thermal stress is an important factor in many industrial situations, athletic events and military scenarios. It can seriously affect the productivity and the health of the individual and diminish tolerance to other environmental hazards. However, the assessment of the thermal stress and the translation of the stress in terms of physiological and psychological strain is complex. For over a century attempts have been made to construct an index, which will describe heat stress satisfactorily. The many indices that have been suggested can be categorized into one of three groups: "rational indices", "empirical indices", or "direct indices". The first 2 groups are sophisticated indices, which integrate environmental and physiological variables; they are difficult to calculate and are not feasible for daily use. The latter group comprises of simple indices, which are based on the measurement of basic environmental variables. In this group 2 indices are in use for over four decades: the "wet-bulb globe temperature" (WBGT) index and the "discomfort index" (DI). The following review summarizes the current knowledge on thermal indices and their correlates to thermal sensation and comfort. With the present knowledge it is suggested to adopt the DI as a universal heat stress index.