Heat protection

Trends in ... heat protection

‘Heat illness is 100% preventable’

“Severe heat illness can be devastating to a worker’s health, and there’s no reason it has to happen to anyone on the job,” says Adrianna Carrera, product management specialist for Magid. “The most important point is that heat illness is 100% preventable.”

Safety+Health spoke with Carrera and other experts in the field of heat protection to find out more.

Approaching the issue

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to protecting workers from heat stress,” Alsie Nelson, product director at Ergodyne, told S+H. “Both outdoor and indoor workers are at risk of heat exposure, but they’re faced with drastically different environmental variables.”

Airflow, direct sunlight, changing ambient temperatures and humidity levels are factors outdoor workers need to consider, Nelson said, adding: “Conversely, at-risk indoor workers often find themselves in environments with no airflow at all – subject to extreme radiant heat while wearing multiple layers of PPE. Because of these differences, outdoor workers are better protected with evaporative cooling and sun protection solutions, while indoor workers benefit from phase-change cooling technologies that do not require airflow.”

It’s also not only about preventing heat stroke, Carrera said. “The body can suffer from heat stress without actually fainting,” she cautioned. “People need to be aware of the causes, symptoms and treatment of all levels of heat illness, and employers should keep in mind that it’s good for workers’ health, but it also has a big impact on worker productivity.”

Recent innovations

The heat protection industry is continuously challenged to create innovative solutions to keep workers safe from on-the-job heat stress, Nelson said, and cooling technologies are “some of the most exciting” new developments. “Evaporative products made with basic moisture-wicking materials were a great start but, depending on the environment, they weren’t always providing the most effective and long-lasting relief,” she said. “This led to an expansion of the category that now includes products made with comfortable and quick-activating technologies such as lightweight PVA, polymer-embedded batting and phase-change cooling.”

Looking ahead, Ralph Blessing, professor, Columbia Southern University, foresees “several of the larger, heavier pieces of cooling technology becoming more mobile, empowering individual employees to move them from workspace to workspace as opposed to requiring the strength of several employees. I also believe that cooling products (bandanas, vests, etc.) will have the technology to keep them cooler longer.”

Words of advice

Looking to create a more complete heat stress prevention plan?

“We recommend inclusion of a cooling product that can be conveniently worn on an area where large blood vessels are located near the skin’s surface (head, neck and arms),” Nelson said. “This can cool the skin temperature by up to 20 degrees – keeping workers cool and comfortable for extended periods of time.”

Water, rest and shade are the obvious measures, Nelson added, “but it’s important to think beyond those critical first steps to keep workers safe.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Hand protection
  • Spill containment/absorbents

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