Types of Cooling PPE

How These Different Kinds of Cooling PPE Technology Can Help You

There are so many types of cooling PPE gears available. Although it is relatively new research it does not mean it does not exist. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is important to workplace safety. However, it can also be uncomfortably hot for its wearers. Furthermore, warm weather doesn’t exactly help either. The latest cooling PPE research and products are looking to keep workers cool while wearing it without compromising on protection.

You may have office staffs who have to wear long pants or arc-flash and fire-resistant (AFR) clothing to shield them from other workplace hazards. With that being said, the potential for heat stress is even greater.

NIOSH Research

Screenshot of NIOSH Official Website

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studies and researches the use of cooling PPE types in its 2016 recommendation. It is the same suggestion for a standard for heat and hot environments. They come to find that cooling PPE can help alleviate the heat caused by wearing protective clothing or equipment. However, there are limitations for each type of cooling garment.

Protective clothing such as AFR clothing can add to the heat stress of summer work. This may encourage and tempt many workers to go without it. AFR clothing may protect workers from sparks. However, it makes body-temperature regulation difficult.

All clothing will affect the rate and amount of heat exchange between the wearer’s skin and the ambient air. This is especially true for clothing developed to provide protection against hazardous chemical, physical, and biologic agents. Clothing sequesters the wearer from the external environment and also traps body heat.

Wearing impermeable, protective clothing significantly limits heat exchange. The porousness prevents the evaporative heat transfer regularly is accomplished through sweating. Wearing and working in PPE clothing, which sometimes can be heavy, also needs additional metabolic energy. It can create even more body heat.

Different Kinds of Cooling PPE

Different Kinds of Cooling PPE
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In this article, we will talk about the different types of cooling PPE that are known. You are able to get them readily available from suppliers. Let’s find out what they are.

NIOSH has gauged 4 auxiliary cooling methods for its heat and hot environments criteria document:

  • Water-cooled garments
  • Air-cooled garments
  • Cooling vests
  • Wetted overgarments

Water-cooled garments have cooling lubricant tubing sewn into the garment and an external operating device. The operating device may come with a battery, circulating pump, control pad, fluid container, and heat exchanger. However, the weight and volume of the operating device may decrease a wearer’s movement. It may also impose an extra weight burden. A water-cooled garment may come with the following:

  • Water-cooled cap paired with a water-cooled vest
  • Long water-cooled undergarment
  • Short water-cooled undergarment

Gel chemistry, cooling towels and wraps

Gel chemistry, cooling towels and wraps
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Reusable frozen gel packs have been around for many years. You can normally find these used in hospitals as:

  • Post-surgical treatment options
  • Provide comfort to nursing mothers
  • Help people deal with heatwaves from hormone changes
  • Chemotherapy
  • Other certain medical conditions

Doctors and other similar medical personnel often put frozen packs in their pockets, chest areas, or under their straps. Other cooling strategies may include products disguised as necklaces with huge cooling beads in the form of a long wrap. The reusable beads are gel packs that can be chilled again and again. Some headbands and neck wraps use evaporative technology to keep the wearer cool.

Cooling towels are also another choice.  A huge range of products is also commercially available. Many are made from polyvinyl acetate, microfiber, cotton or a mixture of several chemistries. The cooling mechanisms may differ per product. Some use evaporation, while some others use what is also known as phase-changing technology. It is where a removable pack, filled with saline or distilled water, can be frozen again and again repeatedly.

There are also pre-dampened towels that use natural ingredients such as lime and lemon oil, aloe vera juice, and water to create an instant cooling feeling. A long-lasting cooling towel product can be hung around your neck and positioned under your PPE.

People may say that only medical personnel use it. However, they are mistaken. There are also offshore people, labourers, and similar people using this. It does not just limit to medical personnel. These can be used by anyone who wears PPE too.

Powders, natural chemistries, and skin-softening strategies

Powders, natural chemistries, and skin-softening strategies
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Some people working in the medical field find a dab of peppermint oil on the back of the neck creates a cooling sensation. Thermoreceptors in the skin are able to sense a cooling sensation created by the menthol in peppermint. Topical usage of peppermint oil generates a long-lasting cooling effect on the wearer’s skin.

Body powders, where it is made to absorb moisture, can help maintain a dry feeling on your skin. This is especially accommodating in areas where clothing can cause skin chaffing. Basic corn-starch-based powders are the most popular. Some powders come with additional ingredients such as powdered slippery elm, ground cocoa butter, kaolin clay, arrowroot rice powder, tapioca starch or baking soda.

Some products are also labelled as vegan. There are also powder products that come with calamine to reduce skin friction.  Some powders contain antifungal ingredients to reduce the problem of a fungal dermatitis outbreak.

Medical personnel are also adopting two other strategies to tackle excessive perspiration. Natural mineral ammonium salt sticks have been used for many years as a natural deodorant that has antimicrobial and astringent properties. After washing, the hard stone is rubbed across your wet skin surface, then dry. While it is not specifically formulated for cooling, some use FiteBac. FiteBac is a silicone-based hand sanitiser to create a smooth-feeling skin surface that fights chaffing. Since skin pathogens thrive in warm, moist environments, FiteBac’s exclusive antimicrobial properties help kill microbes for up to four hours.

Keeping Your Head Cool

Keeping Your Head Cool
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While scientists have refuted the idea that we lose more heat from our head, most of us have never covered our hair for work purposes. Currently, there is one more reason that we feel hot. Scrub caps or bouffant hair coverings come in all kinds of fabrics. Some people find a larger size improves heat dissipation. While others are donning damp caps, taking benefit of the cooling effect as the moisture evaporates. Some medical personnel wet their hair before putting on a cap and allow Mother Nature to help them stay cool.


The bottom line is that there are so many ways of keeping yourself cool when wearing PPE. Above are some of the common types of cooling PPE you can currently find available from suppliers. Although the majority seems to favour medical personnel more, it does not mean you cannot use it with non-medical PPE. You can use cooling pads when you wear coveralls. However, it’s the matter of whether if there are cooling cabinets or refrigerators available where you are located.

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How The Latest PPE Cooling Technology Can Help Its Wearers

Cooling technology for PPE has been around for ages. The very same cooling technology for PPE has been the subject of research for many scientists. It is no myth that wearing PPE does make the wearer feel uncomfortable and hot. To reduce some of that heat, researchers and scientists are trying to find ways to reduce it. That is why they came up with cooling technology for PPE.

Scientists and researchers have come up with various ways to help wearers feel less heaty and more comfortable while at work. For many years, these researchers and scientists have come up with creative ways and ideas to help alleviate the heat. In this article, we will talk about cooling technology in PPE and what has been done.

Heat Risks In PPE Items

Heat Risks In PPE Items tkr engineering
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One of the common problems faced by PPE wearers is a heat-related illness. Heat-related illnesses are usually caused by working in high temperatures, high humidity or direct sun for a long period of time.

A lot of outdoor workers suffer from heat-related illnesses every year. On top of that, many workers die from heat-induced illnesses from PPE each year. In just 2010 alone, 30 workers who wear PPE died from heatstroke.

In heaty environments, the body releases excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. The human body does so by circulating blood to the skin and through sweating. If your body cannot get rid of the excess heat, it will store it. Furthermore, your body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases.

When your body continues to store heat, you will begin to lose concentration and have problems focusing on a task. You may even become irritable or sick, and may often loses the desire to drink water. It can then follow by fainting and even death. Those can happen if the person does not cool down fast enough (OSHA Fact Sheet).

Heat stress can lead to many different conditions. It can include, but not limited to:

  • Heat stroke
  • Or heat exhaustion
  • Heat syncope
  • Or heat cramps
  • Heat rash

Prevention of heat stress in your employees and ground workers is definitely important (CDC Heat Stress).

How Heat Risks in PPE Are Reduced

How Heat Risks in PPE Are Reduced tkr engineering
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There are quite a few ways PPE heat can be reduced. For example, cooling vests can provide a cool layer close to the skin that readily absorbs body heat. It helps keep the wearer’s body temperatures within a safe range. Lower body temperatures can lead to less water and electrolyte loss via sweating. Generally, cooling vests can preserve safe body temperatures, which helps decreases the risk of heat illness.

Back in 1988, the NAVY carried out a study of cooling vests including one that uses frozen gel packs. This particular vest was tested through several channels that include:

  • Rectal and skin temperature
  • Heart rate
  • Oxygen uptake
  • Sweat rate

During the employees’ work activities in hot environments, the vest showed people how it is kept all parameters at statistically significant lower thresholds than the usual controls. However, the vests only preserved their veracity for about two hours before having to replace the gel packs with new frozen ones (Pimental, 1992).

Other Related Researches

Another more recent research study completed in 2008 tested the effects of multiple personal cooling equipment devices. It was carried out on the alleviation of heat strain in high-temperature work areas. There were up to at least 8 testing conditions:

  • The control (wearing no cooling products)
  • Neck cooling scarf “A”
  • Neck cooling scarf “B”
  • Frozen gel-pack brimmed hat
  • Cooling vest
  • Various combinations of these items

Results showed that the rectal temperature was efficiently maintained. At the same time, overall skin temperature and heart rate become more stable when participants wear this personal cooling equipment. The researchers came to the conclusion that the combination of the cooling vest, a cooling scarf, and the brimmed gel-pack cooling hat showed a substantial amount of heat stress elimination. It comes up to a total cooling area of 4.2% of the body surface area as compared to only 3.3% when just a vest was worn (Choi, 2008).

More Research Pertaining to PPE Cooling Technologies

More Research Pertaining to PPE Cooling Technologies tkr engineering
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A more recent study shows that cooling collars alone can actually increase the risk. Researchers verified the hypothesis that cooling the neck region can greatly improve exercise ability while working in hot environments. Athletes who also have participated in this very same study completed four running tests inside an environmental chamber.

The same athlete participants wore a cooling-gel collar in the first round of tests. However, not in the second round though. Time to exhaustion, heart rate, rectal temperature, neck skin temperature, rating of perceived exertion, and thermal sensation were used to carry out the measurement. The researchers came to a final decision that the participants who wore the cooling-gel collars are able to exercise 13.5% longer on average before reaching their maximum level of exhaustion. This is due to the cooling collars dampened the perceived levels of thermal strain.

Despite these observations of relief, their extended effort did not reduce rectal temperatures or heart rates. It may potentially increase the risk of heat-related illness (Tyler, 2011).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Center for Disease Control (CDC), other similar safety government agencies, industry and employee groups agree that working in environments with high temperature and humidity is can be hazardous.  As a result, there have been rules and regulations to lessen and decrease this risk. NIOSH has further stated that management should:

Provide auxiliary body cooling vests or suits for cleaning the sniff (vent), maintenance work, or any other activity that occurs in high heat exposure areas.

What Manufacturers Have To Say

What Manufacturers Have To Say tkr engineering
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Manufacturers further state that cooling vests:

Maintains a comfortable temperature even in the most extreme heated environment (by) absorbing heat generated by the wearer.

On top of that, manufacturers claim that cooling vests also offer great relief for all of the clear symptoms of heat stress.

Safety and health experts believe that workers will be less prone to developing heat illness if they use cooling vests while working in hot and humid environment. The manufacturer, RPCM, states that its cool vests will endure thermally stable at 59 °F (15 °C) for hours to help keep body temperature at normal levels. TuffRhino’s evaporative cooling vests help remove body heat for (on average) 5 hours to 10 hours depending on the humidity in the atmosphere.

All MiraCool products use permeable crystals to retain water. Using evaporative cooling methods for up to 2 days before re-soaking the products is suggested.


The bottom line is that PPE manufacturers understand very well that it can generate heat easily. These heats are generally generated via body heat of the wearer. Having said that, there are researchers and scientists have come up with ways to reduce the heat generated and trapped in the wearer’s PPE gears. These researchers and manufacturers have worked together to create PPE that helps with heat reduction, which can further reduce the heat trapped.

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