Safety Services Company
June 9th 2008
Welcome to part three of our series on “Heat stress”. So far we have discussed what heat stress is, the various conditions resulting from heat stress, and what to look for if you’ve been in the sun too long. In this article I want to talk about prevention, as well as what to do if someone is suffering from a heat related illness. The more you know, the better prepared you will be to help yourself and others.
We know that sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer. The amount of damage from UV exposure depends on the strength of the light, the length of exposure, and whether the skin is protected. There are no safe UV rays or safe suntans.
Take them to a well-ventilated and shaded area, and lay them on the ground or floor. Either remove or loosen their clothing and fan the body surface. DO NOT force the person to drink liquids. Most likely recovery will occur spontaneously and quickly if the skin is moist and cool. When the person has regained consciousness, determine if they were injured when fainting occurred. The person should be watched closely and allowed to rest for at least an hour in a cool environment before being left alone. No one who collapses during a heat exposure should be allowed to become heat exposed again for at least 24 hours, unless approved by a physician.
If the person either does not recover consciousness within 2 minutes, or if their skin is hot and dry, flood the skin and clothing surfaces with cool (not cold) water, fan the body surface vigorously, and SEEK EMERGENCY MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY.
Heat reduction can also be achieved by using power assists and tools that reduce the physical demands placed on a worker. However, for this approach to be successful, the metabolic effort required for the worker to use or operate these devices must be less than the effort required without them. Another method is to reduce the effort necessary to operate power assists. The worker should be allowed to take frequent rest breaks in a cooler environment.
The human body can adapt to heat exposure to some extent. This physiological adaptation is called acclimatization. After a period of acclimatization, the same activity will produce fewer cardiovascular demands. The worker will sweat more efficiently (causing better evaporative cooling), and thus will more easily be able to maintain normal body temperatures.
A properly designed and applied acclimatization program decreases the risk of heat-related illnesses. Such a program basically involves exposing employees to work in a hot environment for progressively longer periods. NIOSH (1986) says that, for workers who have had previous experience in jobs where heat levels are high enough to produce heat stress, the regimen should be 50% exposure on day one, 60% on day two, 80% on day three, and 100% on day four. For new workers who will be similarly exposed, the regimen should be 20% on day one, with a 20% increase in exposure each additional day
* Cool (50°-60°F) water or any cool liquid (except alcoholic beverages) should be made available to workers to encourage them to drink small amounts frequently, e.g., one cup every 20 minutes. Ample supplies of liquids should be placed close to the work area. Although some commercial replacement drinks contain salt, this is not necessary for acclimatized individuals because most people add enough salt to their summer diets.
This concludes our series on heat stress and related illnesses, I hope that you had time to go over all three articles. Summer is here for most of us and we need to be careful as we go obout our days working or playing in the heat of the summer sun. The sun can do real damage if you’re not careful. Be safe out there.
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