Heat stress occurs when a person’s internal body temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is all too common in miners, whose job entails heavy physical labor in hot, humid environments.
To avoid heat stress, MSHA has urged workers and management alike to be on watch for symptoms such as seizures, confusion or delirium, headache and dizziness, weakness, nausea, heavy sweating, muscle pains, and hot and dry skin.
Individuals should also be aware of any clusters of red pimples or small blisters that appear on the neck or upper chest, in the groin area, or under the breasts or elbow creases.
MSHA also outlined some of the risk factors for the heat stress, especially during the heat of the northern summer. Some of these include dehydration, working near hot equipment or in direct sunlight, or donning chemical protective clothing such as dust masks.
Those working in very deep mines are also at risk, as are those who have suffered previous heat-related illnesses, or heart or lung problems. Some factors include thyroid disease, high blood pressure and the use of some medications.
Experts reminded miners that there were ways to prevent heat stress on the job, whether at the surface or underground. Drinking plenty of water and seeking frequent shade were vital, as was wearing light-colored clothing that covered skin.
Those performing heavy physical labor should slow the pace or reschedule the work for a cooler time, and should never work alone. Beverage consumption should not include alcohol or caffeine, as both promote water loss, and food intake should also be limited.
When possible, MSHA said, use airconditioning, such as in the cab of a mobile vehicle.
“Be alert for signs and symptoms of heat stress in others and yourself,” the agency said.
“Stop work, cool off, and seek medical attention.”
If a person does become afflicted with heat stress or shows the symptoms, immediately place them in a shaded area. If the person is alert, have them sit or lie down and provide water to drink in small portions.
Should an individual be unconscious or nearing it, seek medical attention immediately to avoid severe heat stress, or heat stroke.
More information on heat stress and heat stroke can be found on MSHA’s web site.