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How To Prevent Heat Stroke with Digital Monitoring Tools?

The life and health of employees working in high temperature environments are at serious risk. If the body is unable to efficiently remove the heat it receives, this leads to elevated internal temperatures, overheating, illness, heat stroke, and in some cases death. At the same time, it is very difficult to trace the development of such conditions - a worker may feel well and his health may not cause concern even for himself until the consequences are irreversible. How To Prevent Heat Stroke with Digital Monitoring Tools?

Heat-Related Threats and Workload

The risk is higher for those working outdoors (agricultural workers) or in high-temperature industries (metal smelting). However, construction workers are the most at risk. Statistics show that the risk of dying from a heat-related illness is 13 times higher in construction than in other industries. In the U.S., construction accounts for more than one-third of all occupational deaths related to elevated temperatures.

Global and regional occupational safety organizations use various formulas to determine the maximum allowable workload for workers based on heat stress levels. Heat stress is primarily determined by air temperature, humidity, direct exposure to sunlight, wind strength and direction, but it can be increased by a variety of factors, including high workload and wearing PPE.

Rising temperatures reduce the permissible load - statistics show that in regions such as the Middle East, especially during the summer months, the permissible load is exceeded 92-100% of the working time. Some companies in the region are facing high death tolls, presumably caused by the heat, but they are lacking the ability to even objectively investigate the causes of workers' deaths. At the same time, heat-related injuries and deaths can be easily prevented by providing the worker with time to rest, shelter from the sun, and an opportunity to restore the body's water balance. 

What Can Be Done To Protect Workers

Restricting work during the hottest hours, enforcing breaks (e.g. 15 minutes every 2 hours), providing workers with water or protective clothing are now used to reduce the heat stroke and death counts, but none of these measures can serve as a reliable means of protection.

It is important to remember that almost no country in the world has legislated restrictions on working at risk of overheating, but there are recommended measures for every country to protect workers from the negative effects of working at elevated temperatures. 

Recommendations to reduce injuries and fatalities caused by overheating include providing rest breaks, water, shelter from direct sunlight and special training, reducing workload, monitoring signs of overheating, and implementing system for monitoring workers' physiological indicators. 

How Digital Tools Help

The SmartTeam example shows how the monitoring of staff physiological indicators allows not only to react quickly in case of heat stroke, but also to prevent it. This requires constant monitoring of the worker's temperature and heart rate. 

Researchers argue that measuring skin temperature is a more effective way to determine the acceptability of working conditions than other indicators, including ambient air temperature and humidity. Measuring a heart rate helps to predict an increased risk of overheating. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists recommends to set the maximum allowable level of heart rate at work in 120 beats per minute, and British physicians advise to be guided by the worker’s age.

Analysis of the indicators combination allows to early detect signs of developing body overheating. Existing digital tools can help to prevent heat stroke and death due to overheating.

The SmartTeam digital solution was implemented to monitor the health of employees working at an outdoor construction site in Saudi Arabia, and to prevent heat stroke among workers in a foundry shop of a leading Russian steel manufacturer. In both cases, employees were provided with a smart watch that transmit real-time data on the worker's location, skin temperature and heart rate. The data collected is analyzed by a smart module and can predict the onset of heat or sun stroke.

The system used in Saudi Arabia monitors the status of 1,400 workers online. SmartTeam detects if a worker is outdoors, simultaneously analyzing skin temperature and heart rate, and if it detects signs of overheating, it notifies the dispatcher and work manager to substitute the worker by sending him to rest or work in the shade. In case of other sudden incidents or deteriorating health conditions, the smart watch is equipped with an SOS button, allowing to instantly call for help. 

In the foundry, SmartTeam monitors worker movements, body temperature and heart rate, predicts the onset of heat stroke within minutes, issues a warning to the supervisor, and informs the worker himself* to go to the rest area. Moreover, the digital suite reports other heartbeat abnormalities (tachycardia/bradycardia) and helps to respond in a timely manner to worker deterioration not caused by overheating.

*requires a two-way communication wearable device

If you would like to learn more about how digital monitoring tools operate to eliminate worker fatalities and minimize heat-related injury rates, visit our webinar >>

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