For all workers, especially during the hot season, heat stress is a real threat. The heat combined with work exertion drains fluids quickly from the body, leading to dehydration. Unless rehydrated, the body will no longer be able to cool itself enough to remain below the healthy threshold of 100.4°F/38°C (according to an OSHA Heat Stress Guide). When this happens, heat stress sets in and if left untreated, it may escalate to heat stroke, a fatal and life-threatening condition.
The instance described above applies mostly to people working in hot conditions without adequate ventilation and fluid intake. Now, consider those that work in hot conditions WHILE wearing protective gear e.g. workers at hazardous waste sites, emergency response operatives, chemical plants and mining site workers, etc. These people wear protective suits to keep hazardous—and/or toxic—materials out, and insulate them from fire and other elements.
By design, many disposable protective garments are not breathable. While working in hot conditions in these garments, the likelihood of heat stress is much higher. As a result, it is important that companies and workers that constantly use protective garments familiarize themselves with the steps that can be taken to avoid heat stress and/or heat stroke.
Improve Work Conditions
Improve workplace ventilation, block out direct sunlight and other heat sources, and provide as many industrial fans and/or air conditioners as needed. In instances where any of these are impractical, provide a cool room where workers can recover and reduce their deep core temperature. Workers should also be provided with ample fluids and OSHA—Occupational Safety and Health Administration—recommends to avoid dehydration, workers are to drink water every 15 minutes. When possible, high intensity work activities should be scheduled for the cooler periods like early in the morning or late in the evening. In cases where this isn’t possible—firefighters, for example, cannot specify their work schedule—an alternative would be to reduce the physical demands of work done in hot periods. The work should be distributed evenly and no worker should do the bulk of the running, lifting or carrying.
Recognize the Symptoms
According to an Environmental Health and Safety guide published by Iowa State University, workers must be trained to recognize the symptoms of heat stress so that they can get medical help before it escalates. Symptoms may vary from thirst, headache, dizziness or nausea to disorientation and light-headedness, vomiting, wet skin, heat rash, and heat cramps.
In truth, some of these symptoms are consistent with fatigue and the tiredness that comes with exertion, but to be cautious, while working in protective garments in hot conditions, the onset of any of these symptoms must be taken as a serious medical concern.
According to OSHA’s Heat Stress Guide, workers that wear protective garments at temperatures higher than 70°F while working at loads greater than 500 kcal/hour should be monitored constantly. Their heart rate, recovery heart rate, percentage of body water loss and oral temperature must be checked intermittently to ensure that they are not suffering from heat stress.
Provide a Response Plan
After workers have been familiarized with the symptoms of heat stress and other heat-induced trauma, the next step is to develop a heat stroke prevention plan. Some companies/plants opt for stand-by medical personnel that are always on-hand to take care of ailing workers. While that is the ideal option, it is also advisable that workers learn how to take care of themselves and their colleagues.
If someone is suffering from heat stress, the first thing to do is take their protective garment and other outer clothing off and immediately move or be moved to a cooler and well-ventilated area. Emergency services should then be contacted and their instructions on what to do next should be followed. This may include positioning the patient sideways, fanning them and applying ice towels to their faces and torsos.
Get Best-In-Class Disposable Protective Garments
Best-in-class disposable protective garments are designed to provide workers with as much ventilation as possible without compromising on safety. With these garments, workers can be protected from toxic chemicals, hazardous waste, and fire. Because these suits are designed to protect and breathe, they will help reduce the probability of heat-related trauma.
When looking for breathable disposable protective clothing, look no further than International Enviroguard. They provide user-friendly and high-quality protective garments that help promote safety and health standards.
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