Heat Stress and Safety Awareness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kevin Ware

The “101 days of Summer” has begun, and with it brings warmer weather, outdoor events, and barbecues. However, those aren't the only things to keep in mind. Are you taking care of yourself, family members and pets when it comes to heat stress?

Heat stress related injuries and illnesses occur when the body is unable to dissipate heat, and can have negative effects on members of the “Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth” and in turn, the mission. The Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight monitors the Wet Bulb Globe Temperatures daily, alerting the Offutt Air Force Base Command Post of the most current flag conditions.

To be an effective wingman this summer, everyone should know the signs, symptoms and appropriate steps to take in the event of a heat-related illness or injury. Descriptions of heat stress illnesses and injuries from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are listed below.

Heat stroke is the most serious health risk for workers in hot environments. It occurs when the body fails to regulate its core temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, and sweating no longer occurs, meaning the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of its water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those who are elderly, have high blood pressure, or those working in a hot environment.

Heat rash may occur in hot and humid environments where sweat is not easily removed from the surface of the skin. Preventing a heat rash is as simple as resting in a cool place and allowing your skin to dry.

To reduce the potential development of a heat-related illness, follow these few simple precautions:

· Install engineering controls. This includes general ventilation and spot cooling by local exhaust ventilation at points of high heat production.

· Allow new personnel the appropriate time, 10-14 days, to acclimate to the climate.

· Educate workers on the risks of heat stress. It is vital to understanding the importance of staying cool and hydrated.

Preventing heat stress for yourself and your Wingman should be part of your daily Operational Risk Management. If a heat-related illness is suspected, please have the individual report to the Ehrling Bergquist Clinic or nearest medical facility immediately for assessment and if needed, treatment.

For more information regarding heat stress, contact the Bioenvironmental Engineering Office at (402) 294-6319.