Safety Services Company
May 27th 2008
In part one of our series on “Heat Stress” we found out what heat stress is. In part two I would like to go over the causes and the various heat related illnesses, what you need to know and what to look for. It’s a topic most of us don’t really think about, we work and exercise in the heat every day. Most people just throw on some sunscreen, drink some water and think that’s all there is to it. But let’s face it, heat related illnesses are very real and can have deadly consequences if you’re not careful.
Age, weight, degree of physical fitness, degree of acclimatization, metabolism, use of alcohol or drugs, and a variety of medical conditions such as hypertension all affect a person’s sensitivity to heat. However, even the type of clothing worn must be considered. Prior heat injury can lead an individual to additional injury. It is difficult to predict just who will be affected and when, because individual susceptibility varies. In addition, environmental factors include more than the ambient air temperature. Radiant heat, air movement, conduction, and relative humidity all affect an individual’s response to heat.
In heat collapse, the brain does not receive enough oxygen because blood pools in the extremities. As a result, the exposed individual may lose consciousness. This reaction is similar to that of heat exhaustion and does not affect the body’s heat balance. However, the onset of heat collapse is rapid and unpredictable. To prevent heat collapse, the worker should gradually become acclimatized to the hot environment.
Is the most common problem in hot work environments. Prickly heat is manifested as red papules and usually appears in areas where the clothing is restrictive. As sweating increases, these papules give rise to a prickling sensation. Prickly heat occurs in skin that is persistently wet by unevaporated sweat, and heat rash papules may become infected if they are not treated. In most cases, heat rashes will disappear when the affected individual returns to a cool environment.
A factor that predisposes an individual to heat fatigue is lack of acclimatization. The use of a program of acclimatization and training for work in hot environments is advisable. The signs and symptoms of heat fatigue include impaired performance of skilled sensorimotor, mental, or vigilance jobs. There is no treatment for heat fatigue except to remove the heat stress before a more serious heat-related condition develops.
I’ve given you the bad news about working and exercising in the sun, Heat related illnesses are very serious, and you need to pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling when you’re outside in the middle of summer. We all love being outdoors enjoying the fresh air and sun. In my next article I will discuss the things you need to do to prevent the damaging effects of the sun. You can still work and enjoy yourself, you just need to be careful, and take precautions.