An important part of Process Safety Information (PSI) is verifying your Process and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs), Electrical Area Classification (EACs), and Facility Sitings are current and accurate. This task often requires field work which may or may not always fall upon an ideal time of year as far as temperature is concerned. Keeping safe in the field during extreme heat can make all the difference in going home at the end of the day. Each year around 1,300 people succumb to extreme heat in the United States. Knowing the signs is the first step in recognizing when you might be in danger. Of the heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most serious.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Muscle cramping;
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Dizziness or fainting
Heat exhaustion, if left untreated, can progress to heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious, life-threatening condition characterized by the following symptoms:
- A body temperature greater than 103 degrees fahrenheit;
- Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating;
- Rapid and strong pulse;
- Throbbing headache;
So how can you prepare against the menacing heat? Planning ahead helps. Drink plenty of water before going outside. Try to replace the body’s salts and minerals, which are released through sweating during your time outdoors. Drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. Avoid soda, beer, and other alcoholic drinks.
Taking multiple breaks also helps. Familiarize yourself with the operator’s control room, if one is present, as it can be a valuable place to rest and refuel. Many facilities require radios, so be sure you know how to operate the “Man-Down” button should you find yourself in trouble.
Acclimating to the outside before starting strenuous work is also imperative. Gradually build up your workload. Your body produces heat on its own so remember: “The more work, the more heat.” It only takes a couple of hours a day of exposure for your body to know it needs to start acclimating. To help trigger it to start, it’s best to accumulate at least an hour of heat exposure at a time, but shade and rest are a good thing. Taking advantage of air-conditioning during your breaks is encouraged.
If you feel yourself starting to suffer from signs of heat exhaustion remember to seek a cool and shaded area and hydrate immediately while resting. Keeping yourself cool and hydrated as well as taking frequent breaks under shade or indoors will ensure that you end the day like you started; safe and healthy.