Heat stress: Symptoms and prevention

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Heat stress

Heat stress

Heat stress occurs when the body’s heat regulating mechanism starts failing, making it difficult for the body to regulate an maintain a safe body temperature.

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The body reacts to heat by increasing the blood flow to the skin’s surface, and by sweating. In Heat stress condition, this heat regulation process is overstretched making it difficult for the body regulate the core body temperature.

This failure can result to the development of heat disorders like:

  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat Cramps
  • Heat Rashes
  • Heat stroke, etc.

Some factors which could lead to Heat stress are:

  • Getting expose to high and extreme  temperature
  • Increase work rate
  • Humidity
  • Unsafe work clothing worn, etc.

Symptoms of heat stress include:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heat  rash
  • Increase thirst
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Giddiness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Moist skin
  • Hot dry skin
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness.

Heat stress first aid measures

Here are things to do if you suspect Heat stress.

  • Rest in a cool and well ventilated area
  • Remove excess clothing
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids
  • Apply a wet cloth, cold water or ice packs to the skin (armpits and groin).

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General safety measures which could be adopted to prevent heat stress include:

1. Control the temperature: Engineering control can be used to control the temperature. For example, external ventilation can be installed or work process can be changed to reduce the heat generated.

2. Reduce the work rate:  Regulate the length of exposure to hot environments and employ mechanical means to accomplish some task instead of adopting manual approach.

3. Prevent dehydration: Provide cool water in the workplace and encourage workers to drink it frequently in order to stay hydrated.

4. Provide adequate personal protective equipment: The PPE should not increase the temperature, and should be comfortable.

5. Training: Workers working under extreme hot environment or predisposed to heat disorders should be trained. The training should cover safe working practices and emergency procedures.

6. Acclimatization: Workers should be allowed to acclimatise to their environment and identify which workers are acclimatised/assessed as fit to work in hot conditions.

7. Identify who is at risk

8. Seek advice from a professional medical practitioner.

9. Monitor health: The health status of workers at risk must be monitored regularly.

See Heat stress risk assessment checklist here

Read AlsoHeat Disorders

 

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