Recognizing Heat Stress Hazards: Tips for Effective Training

Heat Stress and the Aircraft Maintenance Industry: General guidelines for preventing heat stress By Justin Bruursema Introduction Heat stress is a serious workplace hazard for millions of workers across the nation. The dangers of heat...


Heat exhaustion is a step away from heat stroke, and treatment can be more effective because the victim often remains conscious. Move the victim into a cooler, shaded area. Recline the victim with the feet elevated. Loosen clothing. A conscious person can replenish lost body fluids by drinking cool beverages, slowly but steadily. Avoid the use of ice or cold liquids. Pouring cool water over their body may help the victim. If untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious of the heat illnesses. When sweating no longer helps the body regulate its internal temperature, the body has no choice but to halt cooling efforts and store the heat. The victim may be slightly confused and disoriented. Body temperature may be 105 F or higher. Other symptoms are delirium, convulsions, or even unconsciousness. This condition can be life threatening. There are two main types of heat stroke: classic and exertional.

Classic heat stroke may take days to develop and usually affects the poor, elderly, chronically ill, overweight, and alcoholics. Victims of classic heat stroke are not usually sweating. Exertional heat stroke affects healthy people who work or play hard in a warm environment. These victims are usually sweating when they develop heat stroke. Because it occurs rapidly, there usually isn't time for severe dehydration to occur. The skin will be hot, and it may or may not be dry. It is often red or spotted.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If a heat stroke victim does not receive the proper treatment quickly enough, death can occur. Do whatever you can to cool the victim off immediately. This includes moving the person into the shade, submerging him in water or pouring water on him, and fanning the victim. Avoid ice or very cold water, which constricts the blood vessels of the skin and prevents heat from escaping through the skin. While someone is cooling the victim down, another person should call for medical attention. If the victim is still conscious, try to get him to take sips of cool water.

Understanding and recognizing the causes and symptoms of heat stress disorders is an important part of heat stress safety. But the key is using measures to prevent heat stress from occurring in the first place. Heat stress is a stress on the body. The heat can affect your physical abilities and mental alertness. So it is not surprising that accidents in the workplace increase as the temperature rises. Let's take a look at what you can do to prevent heat stress.

Best safety practices for preventing heat stress

Engineering measures should be the first means of controlling this hazard. The most effective control measure when indoors is reducing the temperature of the work area. When this is not possible, other measures such as shielding or ventilation should be used. Use a fan or open a window to increase air movement.

The loss of fluids is the major contributor to heat illnesses. Under normal conditions your body loses about 2 quarts of water every day. When exposed to excess heat while working, a person can lose almost 2 quarts in one hour through sweating. This is why it is important to drink plenty of liquids before, during, and after working in warm environments.

If you know you will be working in a warm environment, you should begin drinking fluids before you start work. While working, you should drink at least 8 ounces of fluid every 20 to 30 minutes - even if you don't feel thirsty. Thirst is not a good indicator of when to drink fluids. If you wait until you are thirsty before you drink, you will be more likely to become dehydrated. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine drinks because they increase water loss and cause dehydration. The best fluids to drink are water and sports drinks.

Since sweating is an important cooling mechanism, the moisture vapor transport rating of material used for protective clothing should be considered when selecting and using personal protective equipment. When hazard protection is not a concern, select clothing that is light weight, loose, and breathable. Wear light colors because they tend to reflect the heat. When working in the sun make sure you wear a hat and don't give in to the temptation to remove clothes. A sunburn may look healthy, but it greatly reduces the skin's ability to shed excess heat.

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