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Preventing Heat Stress


By:  Ron Parker, STS, CHST

Even though it is getting close to Fall, and then Winter, let’s not forget it is still summer and very hot.  Conditions of heat can put your body under a lot of stress.  If this is not controlled it can lead to heat exhaustion which can lead to heat stroke and can be deadly.  In this article let’s concentrate on conditions of heat stress.  Physical activity combined with hot conditions stresses the body sometimes to the extreme.  Heat stress is normally associated with warm weather, however warm weather isn’t the only cause of heat stress.  Even if the weather is cool but you work indoors under very hot conditions you can encounter heat stress.  You must be alert to conditions that could cause heat stress, and take necessary precautions.  Be aware of contributing factors that create heat stress, such as:

Adjusting to these factors and controlling them reduces the chance of heat stress.  A person’s body can become acclimated but keep in mind that conditions can change, and if so, you must re-acclimate your body to the change.  Check with your company’s safety professional for information on how to re-acclimate yourself.
To continue, concerning working in extreme heat, the acclimatization process involves gradually increasing the amount of time you spend working in a hot environment which will allow your body time to adjust to the heat.
If possible, use engineering controls to reduce possible heat stress.  There are several methods of which to choose:

Administrative controls are effective to help prevent heat stress injuries.  Some of these controls may be hard to implement due to scheduling but if possible should be tried.

Common sense precautions should be taken to prevent heat stress, such as dressing properly for the job.  Preventing heat stress is a matter of controlling factors that cause it.  Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you suspect heat stress in yourself or a co-worker.



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