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Temperature limit values for touching cold surfaces with the fingertip

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Author: Geng, Q. · Holme, I. · Hartog, E.A. den · Havenith, G. · Jay, O. · Malchaires, J. · Piette, A. · Rintama, H. · Rissanen, S.
Institution: TNO Defensie en Veiligheid
Source:Annals of Occupational Hygiene Advance, 8, 50, 851-862
Identifier: 16355
doi: doi:10.1093/annhyg/mel030
Keywords: Health · Cold surfaces · Contact temperature · Finger touching · Machine safety · Aluminum · Cold effects · Low temperature phenomena · Research and development management · Stainless steel · Thermodynamic properties · Cold surfaces · Contact temperature · Finger touching · Machine safety · Occupational risks · nylon · stainless steel · adult · cold exposure · cold injury · controlled study · cooling · data analysis · data base · distal phalanx · female · force · hand paresthesia · human · human experiment · index finger · information processing · laboratory · male · materials · model · normal human · occupational exposure · occupational hazard · prediction · priority journal · protection · risk assessment · skin · skin injury · skin pain · skin protection · skin temperature · surface property · temperature measurement · temperature sensitivity · touch · wood · worker · thermal physiology · cold


Objectives: At the request of the European Commission and in the framework of the European Machinery Directive, research was performed in five different laboratories to develop specifications for surface temperature limit values for the short-term accidental touching of the fingertip with cold surfaces. Methods: Data were collected in four laboratories with a total of 20 males and 20 females performing a grand total of 1655 exposures. Each touched polished blocks of aluminium, stainless steel, nylon-6 and wood using the distal phalanx of the index finger with a contact force of 1.0, 2.9 and 9.8 N, at surface temperatures from +2 to -40C for a maximum duration of 120 s. Conditions were selected in order to elicit varying rates of skin cooling upon contact. Contact temperature (TC) of the fingertip was measured over time using a T-type thermocouple. Results: A database obtained from the experiments was collated and analysed to characterize fingertip contact cooling across a range of materials and surface temperatures. The database was subsequently used to develop a predictive model to describe the contact duration required for skin contact temperature to reach the physiological criteria of onset of pain (15C), onset of numbness (7C) and onset of frostbite risk (0C). Conclusions: The data reflect the strong link between the risk of skin damage and the thermal properties of the material touched. For aluminium and steel, skin temperatures of 0C occurs within 2-6 s at surface temperatures of -15C. For non-metallic surfaces, onset of numbness occurs within 15-65 s of contact at -35C and onset of cold pain occurs within 5 s of contact at -20C. The predictive model subsequently developed was a non-linear exponential expression also reflecting the effects of material thermal properties and initial temperature. This model provides information for the protection of workers against the risk of cold injury by establishing the temperature limits of cold touchable surfaces for a broad range of materials, and it is now proposed as guidance values in a new international standard. Keywords: Cold surfaces; contact temperature; finger touching; machine safety