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December 31, 2012
Manikins work up a sweat for NIOSH testing tool

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) has introduced a sweating thermal manikin. The technology measures heat transfer through fabrics in garments worn in occupations like fire fighting, health care, and mining.

The sweating manikin will support NIOSH efforts to create less burdensome materials and designs for protective clothing used by workers who face the risk of heat stress from prolonged duty and physically stressful work. 

Protective clothing makers use a standard testing process to measure the amount of heat transferred through fabrics. Based on the test, a “total heat loss number” is assigned to the garment. NIOSH research physiologist Jon Williams says additional testing methods are needed to account for various features that can affect heat retention. Examples are pockets, padded knees or elbows, and zippers. 

NIOSH has traditionally conducted tests on volunteer human subjects to measure physiological responses to physical activity while wearing the garments. The testing has limitations because human bodies differ in gender, size, and fitness level. The sweating manikin will help determine standardized responses.

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