Heat Stress 101 (Part 1)
When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, several heat-induced illnesses such as heat stress or heat exhaustion and the more severe heat stroke can occur, and can result in death.
Young people in general good health who are physically fit and have been exercising regularly in the heat, for at least the previous week or so, face heat stress with the least danger and will be in the least discomfort. People who are obese, not in good physical condition, and who have not exercised in the heat, as well as infants and the aged, will be in the greatest danger and discomfort during heat stress.
Instruct everyone who is to be heat exposed and those responsible for the activities how to prevent heat-related illness, how to recognize the early warning signs and symptoms of heat stress, and inform them how to reduce discomfort and danger in the early stages of heat exposure. Establish networks among people who are to be heat exposed so they can watch for developing heat stress signs and symptoms among themselves.
Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for inducing heat stress in employees engaged in such operations.
Such places include:
- Iron and steel foundries
- Nonferrous foundries
- Brick-firing and ceramic plants
- Glass products facilities
- Rubber products factories
- Electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms)
- Commercial kitchens
- Food canneries
- Chemical plants
- Mining sites
- Steam tunnels.
Outdoor operations conducted in hot weather, such as construction, refining, asbestos removal, and hazardous waste site activities, especially those that require workers to wear semi-permeable or impermeable protective clothing, are also likely to cause heat stress among exposed workers.
Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes 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.
Note: Twenty-four states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.
During Heat Exposure:
- Control Exercise
- Clothing and Exposure (especially when humidity is high)
- Heat stress develops due to heat gained from the environment
- AND that produced by work or exercise.
During emergency response activities or recovery operations, workers may be required to work in hot environments, and sometimes for extended periods. Heat stress is a common problem encountered in these types of situations. I hope this article as well as the ones to follow will help workers understand what heat stress is, the symptoms, and how it may affect their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.
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