It can start with a dry mouth, in addition to feeling weak or lightheaded. Muscle cramps, nausea, and vomiting are also other symptoms. These symptoms are signs of dehydration. Heat-related illnesses could escalate from there. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) website, “Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness, happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures.”
Keep in mind—it doesn’t need to be a specific temperature for these heat-related illnesses to set in. According to OSHA, “environmental factors that put workers at greater risk [for heat-related illnesses] include high temperature and humidity, radiant heat sources, contact with hot objects, direct sun exposure (with no shade), and limited air movement (no breeze, wind, or ventilation).” Additionally, “job-specific factors that put workers at greater risk include physical exertion and the use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment.” Operations conducted under these circumstances increase the risk of heat-related illness for exposed workers.
Any one of these conditions could be dangerous for workers. However, workers at a shale oil and gas well site may encounter a combination of these conditions, which could amplify a worker’s physical condition and intensify the situation. For example, the industry has a long history of working outside in the elements. Plus the industry stretches across the country through various climates, some of which are very hot and humid. In addition, workers on well sites need to wear extra layers of flame resistant (FR) protective gear, which could make the environmental work conditions even warmer.
However, heat-related illnesses can be prevented as there are ways to reduce heat exposure. Perhaps the most important advice is to drink plenty of water often to stay hydrated. Proper hydration is extremely important. Even if a worker is not thirsty, their body is often still losing water by sweating and trying to cool itself. OSHA also recommends “engineering controls, such as air conditioning and ventilation, that make the work environment cooler; work practices such as work/rest cycles; and providing an opportunity for workers to build up a level of tolerance to working in the heat.”
Top Hand Training was founded to meet the growing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulatory training and EHS consulting needs of shale oil and gas service companies and operators. Nathan Ray, Owner, Top Hand Training, explained, “We help our clients develop specific heat safety policies and programs to protect their team members in the field. These include electrolyte hydration programs, selecting the proper FR clothing for employees, and specific training classes developed for their supervisors to take into the field.”
“Companies should be holding short training classes in the field or at the shop to make sure employees are aware of heat related symptoms and of the dangers and the seriousness of heat related illnesses,” relayed Ray, who also added, “Our most popular training class, PEC SafeLand, does cover heat stress and heat stroke at the awareness level. SafeLand is a great start for shale oil and gas hazard awareness level training; however, companies should also develop their own safety policies and programs for training and protecting their team members.”
Additionally, apparel companies are doing their part. “Bulwark Protective Apparel recently launched the first performance FR garments to the market, with the iQ Series. These are the lightest weight, most breathable FR products available,” explained Mallory Madden, Territory Sales Manager, VF Imagewear, Inc., who added, “Not only is it light weight, it is dual certified being CAT 2 for utility electrical workers and 2112 for our shale oil and gas workers. It meets the highest performance standards, and we are seeing a big success with the product in the market. iQ is a game changer for FR comfort and moisture wicking technology.” The iQ Comfort SeriesTM by Bulwark is meant to keep the wearer cooler and drier, while providing comfort and protection. The iQ Comfort SeriesTM is available in both men’s and women’s products.
Madden says the products utilize wicking technology and are lightweight, while providing mobility, breathability, durability, and softness. “The activewear fabric keeps the wearer cooler and drier due to advanced sweat protection and moisture wicking. The specially engineered fiber offers less-dense construction, which breaks the ‘mass = protection’ barrier. This means it’s over 20% lighter than 7% FR cotton. The improved functional design lets the fabric stretch for maximum flexibility, which results in a better range of motion both forward and overhead. In addition, the ingenious fabric construction creates pathways, which allow for maximum airflow through the garment. Plus it is flame resistant for the life of the garment. Additionally, the iQ SeriesTM’ flex, drape, and compressibility provides FR garments with less scratch, stiffness, and rigidity.”
Shale Media Group (SMG) is the news, information, and education resource dedicated to the shale oil and gas industries by messaging across video, Internet, publications, events, and radio. For more, check out ShaleMediaGroup.com to access all platforms. In addition, join us on August 27th for our next Elite Energy Event in front of the Holiday Inn Express in Bentleyville, PA from 5-8pm. Kristie Kubovic is the Director of Communications at Shale Media Group. Contact her at Kristie@ShaleMediaGroup.com.