Thermal stress is defined as the heat load to which workers are exposed. It is the result of the combination between the environmental conditions of the workplace, the physical activity they have to carry out and the clothes they wear in order to perform the work.
That is, thermal stress refers to a problem in the workplace. It is not a simple effect of heat on workers, but it is defined as the cause of a series of negative consequences on the body, produced by an accumulation of heat.
It is a situation that gets worse in times of more heatr. Therefore, in this article we explain everything you need to know about thermal heat stress.
What is thermal stress?
There are numerous jobs, such as in furnaces or foundries, where employees are subjected to high temperatures. In others, they must carry out an important physical effort, or wear protective equipment that causes the accumulation of heat.
The truth is that in all of them, workers are at risk of accumulating excessive hot, which poses a significant risk to health. When raising the temperature of the body, regulation mechanisms are started; They highlight the sweating or vasodilation of the blood vessels of the skin.
When these conditions occur, the body may have problems to reduce its temperature. If the temperature exceeds 38ºC, it can cause damage to health. If it continues to ascend, it can even cause death.
The severity of the effects of thermal stress varies according to certain factors. Those that most influence are:
- The age and health of the worker.
- The time you have been exposed at high temperatures.
- The lack of rest.
- Some medications, such as antihistamines or anxiolytics. It also influences that the worker consumes alcohol or drugs.
- Clothes and the workplace.
- Lack of acclimatization. It is the process by which the organism adapts to the environment and temperature. It is relatively slow, so it is recommended to make a progressive acclimatization. Ideally, it lasts between one and two weeks.
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What can cause thermal stress?
Thermal stress can increase the risk of accidents during work. In addition, if the employee already has a pathology, it may become worse. At the beginning, with the increase in temperature, the person usually feels a feeling of suffocation or dizziness.
The heat also causes headache, lack of concentration and alterations in memory. It can even cause mood changes. In this way, if the elevated temperature is maintained, it can happen:
- Dehydration, with all that it entails (dryness, tachycardia, reduction of urine, etc.).
- Muscle cramps.
- Syncope and fainting.
- Exhaustion and nausea.
But nevertheless, The biggest complication is heat stroke. It is an urgent situation characterized by tachycardia and confusion. In addition, breathing becomes fast and weak. The person can faint and their temperature can exceed 40ºC.
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How can we prevent it?
As we have mentioned, all these problems arise from the accumulation of heat in the body. Also, as it is a work situation, It is very important that both the company and the workers are aware. Everyone must take measures to try to prevent this problem.
First, it is necessary to make sure that a good heat acclimatization has been carried out. In the same way, the pace of work has to adapt to these temperatures. You should try to do the job in the shade.
If it is not possible, It is advisable to do the homework during the hottest times of the day. Therefore, work should be avoided between 2 and 5 in the afternoon. It is also a good idea to establish shifts for employees.
The ideal is to make frequent breaks and in fresh places. In addition, you have to hydrate properly throughout the day. The meals should be light and, of course, you should avoid alcohol.
Thermal stress is a situation that affects many types of workers. Thus, It is necessary to take all possible measures to try to prevent it. The advisable thing is to try to have mechanical help so that the physical effort in the work is better.
If this is not possible, try to reduce the heat buildup. Wearing appropriate clothing, protecting your head and hydrating properly are essential measures. In the same way, you have to make enough breaks and regain strength in cool places.