The microclimate is an important aspect to consider in any environment, whether internal or external. However, the main discomforts of the microclimate concern mainly indoor environments, where temperature and humidity can affect the health and well-being of people.
What is microclimate in the workplace?
The microclimate in the working environment is the set of climatic conditions that occur within a working environment, such as temperature, relative air humidity, wind speed, atmospheric pressure and air quality. These factors can affect the well-being and productivity of workers, so it is important to make an assessment of the microclimate to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment.
The assessment of the microclimate involves the analysis of climatic conditions within the working environment in order to identify any problems. For example, excessive relative humidity can create ideal conditions for the growth of mold and fungi, which in turn can cause allergies and respiratory diseases.
For example, excessive relative humidity can create ideal conditions for the growth of mold and fungi, which in turn can cause allergies and respiratory diseases.
Microclimate risk is a complex assessment, requiring analysis of several variables such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and solar radiation. Microclimate evaluation includes measurement of air temperature, relative air humidity, air velocity, and solar radiation. All these factors can affect workers’ thermal comfort and their ability to perform work efficiently.
Assessment of the microclimate may also include examination of the lighting conditions in the working environment. Good lighting is essential to ensure a comfortable and safe environment for workers.
Finally, the assessment of the microclimate also includes the examination of air quality in the working environment. The presence of pollutants in the air can cause respiratory problems, allergies and diseases.
Microclimate and thermal wellness
The current legislation in Italy provides for the use of specific evaluation indices to verify that the climate parameters are in line with the needs of users. In particular, the UNI EN 15251 standard establishes the criteria of thermal comfort for buildings and indoor activities, considering various factors such as air temperature, air speed, relative humidity and average radiant temperature. The main benchmark for assessing thermal comfort is the PMV (Predicted Mean Vote), which takes into account the thermal sensations of occupants and environmental conditions.
As for outdoor environments, the UTCI (Universal Thermal Climate Index) is used, which considers not only air temperature but also other factors such as solar radiation, wind speed and relative humidity. This index has been developed to assess the risk of thermal stress for people working outdoors or practicing sports.
This index has been developed to assess the risk of thermal stress for people working outdoors or practicing sports.
The categories of microclimatic environments
The first category concerns working environments. In these spaces, temperature, humidity and ventilation can affect workers’ productivity and health. It is important to maintain an adequate temperature and a relative humidity between 40% and 60%. In addition, it is essential to ensure proper ventilation to avoid accumulation of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
The second category concerns domestic environments. Again, the above applies to the workplace.
The third category concerns hospital environments. In these spaces, temperature, humidity and ventilation can affect patients’ healing. It is important to maintain an adequate temperature (between 20° and 25° C) and a relative humidity between 40% and 60%. And it is essential to ensure proper ventilation to prevent the spread of pathogens.
The fourth category concerns school environments. In these spaces, temperature, humidity and ventilation can affect students’ learning. It is important to maintain an adequate temperature (between 18° and 22° C) and a relative humidity between 40% and 60%. In addition, it is essential to ensure proper ventilation to avoid accumulation of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
The microclimate in moderate environments
The microclimate in moderate environments is a fundamental aspect to be taken into account in order to guarantee the well-being of the individuals who frequent such spaces. Regulations and benchmarks represent an indispensable tool for the evaluation of the microclimate, in order to ensure compliance with legal limits and an adequate level of thermal comfort.
The Decree 81/2008 lays down rules on health and safety at work, including the obligation to provide workers with a comfortable and safe working environment. In particular, article 191 provides for the need to take all appropriate measures to protect the health of workers from exposure to risks arising from environmental working conditions.
To evaluate the microclimate in moderate environments, there are several benchmarks such as operating temperature, relative humidity and air velocity. The operating temperature represents the temperature actually perceived by individuals, taking into account the environmental conditions and the activities carried out. Relative humidity indicates the amount of water vapour in the air and is important to avoid breathing problems or skin irritation. And air velocity is essential to avoid convection cooling phenomena.
To ensure an adequate level of thermal comfort, there are also other specific regulations such as the UNI EN ISO 7730 standard, which defines the parameters for the assessment of thermal comfort and the PMV well-being index (predicted mean vote). This index takes into account operating temperature, relative humidity, air velocity, clothing and the activity of individuals.
The microclimate in severe hot and cold environments
The assessment of the microclimate in severe hot and cold environments requires special attention. In hot environments such as foundries, steel mills or thermal power plants, the microclimate can pose a major challenge to workers’ health. High temperatures can cause dehydration, heat stroke and other disturbances that can compromise working capacity and increase the risk of workplace accidents.
Specific instruments such as probe thermometers or humidity sensors can be used to evaluate the microclimate in these environments. In addition, it is important to carry out an assessment of workers’ heat exposure, which takes into account not only the environmental temperature but also the relative humidity, air speed and activities carried out by the workers themselves.
Even in cold environments such as cold stores or ski resorts, the assessment of the microclimate is crucial to ensure the comfort of operators and visitors. Low temperatures can cause hypothermia, freezing of the extremities and other diseases related to exposure to cold. Also useful in this case are probe thermometers or humidity sensors, as well as the evaluation of the air speed and cold exposure of workers. Of course, it is important to provide adequate room thermal insulation and adequate heating systems.
What is the comfortable microclimate?
There are several factors that can affect the perception of the microclimate by workers. First, the temperature: too hot or too cold environment can cause discomfort and stress. The ideal temperature depends on the activities carried out within the working environment; too low air humidity can cause dryness of the nasal and ocular mucosa, while too high humidity can promote the growth of mold and bacteria. The ideal humidity should be between 40% and 60%.
Ventilation is another crucial aspect to ensure a comfortable microclimate. Insufficient ventilation can cause accumulation of pollutants in the air, such as dust or chemicals in the materials used in the working environment.
Also the quality of lighting can affect the perception of microclimate by workers. Too bright or poorly distributed light can cause visual fatigue and headaches.
In conclusion, a comfortable microclimate improves the quality of life of workers, reduces the risk of climate-related diseases and increases productivity.