Beating The Heat

"Two Firefighters Succumb to Heat" were the headlines of a newspaper article the day after a chemical spill at a loading dock. The firefighters were entry team partners of mine from our hazardous material response team when we responded to a spill of...

  • Fans-the moving of air is very effective at cooling skin through the evaporation process. However, the movement of hot air can actually increase heat stress of personnel so the addition of a water mist can aid in the cooling affect.

  • Air conditioning-Artificially cool environments obviously aid in cooling personnel.

  • Cold packs- can be used to cool personnel by application under arm pits and can be used in cooling vests.

  • Cooling vests-can be useful for short term cooling of personnel.

  • Cooling suits-effectively cool the whole body (thorax and extremities) of the wearer for long periods of time. One drawback is they are expensive and add to the weight burden but their use has been proven to be effective for heat stress prevention.

Outside of the obvious methods of controlling heat stress such as staying out of the sun, wearing clothing that shields the sun, avoiding hot surfaces such as asphalt, and others the above methods, when employed regularly and consistently, should greatly decrease the chance of heat stress problems to personnel. Well hydrated personnel should be able to withstand heat stress better and stay on the job longer without health consequences.