How Do I Prevent Heat Stroke?
When the weather first turns hot is the worst time for heat stroke. The key to preventing heat stroke is to start work in a well-hydrated state and to maintain this throughout the day. To prevent heat stroke drink lots of water before you start work, continue through the day and even on your way home. You may not feel thirsty but keep drinking anyway.
If you don’t have the water in your body to produce enough sweat to cool yourself down you are in big trouble. It can take 3 or 4 hours to get the water you need back into your system after sweating, so don’t get behind in your water consumption. Your dehydration may carry over from one day to the next if you don’t drink enough after work.
It is possible to remain well hydrated while working in the heat (Miller and Bates, 2007). A study in construction workers in the Middle East (Bates and Schneider, 2008) demonstrated that simple strategies to promote adequate intake of fluid enabled workers to remain adequately hydrated in ambient temperatures reaching 50°C or more with no evidence of physiological heat strain despite the severe thermal conditions. A combination of adequate hydration with a policy of self-pacing (permitting workers to adjust their work rate to the thermal conditions) allows work to continue safely in all but the most extreme conditions.
Recommendations to Prevent Heat Stress (Bates et al., 2010)
- Supply each worker with a personal insulated drink container to accompany the worker on site and to be kept as close as practicable at all times.
- Encourage workers to arrive on site well hydrated
- Workers should be drinking between 600 ml and 1 l of water per hour in summer.
- At the start of the shift, the drink container should be full and workers should be instructed that it should be consumed and refilled every 2–3 hours.
- During hot weather, when sweating is heavy, an appropriate electrolyte replacement beverage should be available.
- Each worker should consume ‘at least’ one 2-litre container full of this beverage per day, ideally during the morning work period, to maintain electrolyte and energy levels.
- During the ride home, encourage further drinking of water or electrolyte drink to replace afternoon losses
- Educate workers to monitor their hydration levels from urine colour and volume. Reinforce this with posters in the latrines and rest areas.