Controlling Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a serious condition caused by the failure of the body’s internal mechanism to regulate its core temperature. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that can result in death. During heat stroke, sweating stops and the body is unable to eliminate excessive heat. The heat stroke victim can experience: dry, pale skin (no sweating); hot, red skin (looks like sunburn); mood changes (irritable, confused); seizures/fits; and collapsing/passing out. The following actions may help reduce worker exposure to heat stroke.

Work Environment

Provide general ventilation throughout the work areas.

Provide local exhaust ventilation in areas of high heat.

Provide heat shielding to protect workers from radiant heating.

Provide air conditioning or evaporative cooling in work areas.

Repair and eliminate any steam leaks in the work environment.

Understand that fans do not decrease the temperature; they only move the hot air.

Provide recovery areas, such as air-conditioned rooms.

Work Clothes

Provide ice vests, with internal pockets to hold pre-frozen gel-type packs or ice (ice vest will normally last two to four hours).

Provide localized cooling with specially-designed, air-supplied hoods or helmets.

Provide vest-style garments that employ a battery-powered pump, and a pouch that holds a bag filled with water and crushed ice.

Take into consideration that wearing respirators and special suits to protect against toxic substances can increase the risks of heat-induced illnesses.

Ensure exposed workers wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, where possible.

Provide power tools, rolling carts, and manual material handling equipment to reduce manual labor.

Work Practices

Ensure worker acclimatization by way of gradual exposures to heat – brief periods followed by longer periods of work in the hot environment. Government agencies recommend that new, hot-area workers be exposed to the heat for only 20 percent of their work time the first day, with a 20 percent increase in exposure each additional day.

Consider starting the work earlier in the day when temperatures are generally cooler.

Discourage workers from eating large meals, drinking caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, and smoking before working in hot environments.

Ensure workers are provided the opportunity to drink a large amount of fluid.

Provide regular work breaks in a cooler environment.

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