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A field study of the effectiveness and practicality of a novel hybrid personal cooling vest worn during rest in Hong Kong construction industry

Chan, Albert P.C., Zhang, Ying, Wang, Faming, Wong, Francis F.K., Chan, Daniel W.M.
Journal of thermal biology 2017 v.70 pp. 21-27
construction industry, fans (equipment), heart rate, heat, heat stress, phase transition, summer, China
A novel hybrid cooling vest (HCV) incorporated with phase change materials (PCMs) and ventilation fans has been developed for construction workers in Hong Kong to attenuate heat stress and prevent heat-related illnesses, and its effectiveness and practicality have been validated in this study. A total of 140 wear trials involving of 140 workers were conducted in Hong Kong construction sites during the summer time. Each wear trial involves a two-day wear test, of which one day workers wore the HCV (denoted as VEST) during resting, and another day they wore traditional workwear (denoted as CON). Subjects were asked to rate their perceived exertion (RPE), thermal sensations (TS) and 7 other subjective attributes. There were significant differences in the effectiveness on reducing workers’ heat strain between VEST and CON in terms of alleviations of heart rate (ΔHR), ΔTS, ΔRPE as well as ΔPeSI (p < 0.001). The practicality of HCV is evidenced by a significant improvement by 0.93–1.34 on the rating scores of perceived cooling effect, sensations of comfort and skin dryness during rest and fatigue recovery in VEST at the level of 0.05, and high ratings of 4.85–5 (rating scale from 1 to 7, and the higher the better) by subjects on the preference, fitness as well as effectiveness to combat heat stress. In addition, a remarkable proportion of 91 per cent of subjects prefer to use this newly designed HCV as a cooling measure during rest. The power to alleviate perceptual heat stain (PeSA) in VEST is about twice of that by rest, which means HCV can notably improve the workers’ perceptual heat strain in a limited resting duration. However, the strain alleviation power of HCV nearly remains unchanged with the prolonged rest duration. Thus, the optimal work-rest schedule needs to be investigated in a further study.