According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, last June (2015) saw record high temperatures along the West Coast of the U.S. Even when warm weather is not at peak temperatures, heat can be dangerous for those working in outdoor settings. Contractors and businesses with outdoor facilities need to protect employees from heat exhaustion with the proper equipment and clothing.
Protective gear is more difficult to come by, however, when workers need to guard against fire or flame. Keeping cool in hot temperatures while wearing flame resistant attire is tricky, though not impossible.
The Risks of Heat Exhaustion
It’s important to understand heat exhaustion takes many forms and affects workers differently. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heat stroke, heat syncope, heat rash and heat cramps are all afflictions resulting from the body overheating. Dehydration can cause all types of heat exhaustion and stress, resulting in dizziness, fainting, muscle spasms and nausea.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous and should be dealt with immediately upon the observation of symptoms. Essentially, the body loses its ability to regulate heat or sweat to cool down. Victims of heat stroke often experience body temperatures rising as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit in only 10 or 15 minutes; therefore, identifying a troubling condition and responding immediately is absolutely crucial.
While a swift response is important, preparing in advance for such a scenario and equipping workers with the proper gear to decrease the likelihood of heat exhaustion occuring is smarter. As previously noted, work sites requiring employees to wear flame resistant clothing present additional concerns for supervisors. Flame resistant gear is notorious for its heavy insulation, which creates a less breathable fabric. It is also important to note that wearing loose-fitting clothing, which the CDC recommends for workers in hot environments, is a poor choice for anyone who may be exposed to flames.
Preventative Measures are Best
The solution? Flame resistant garments specifically designed to keep workers cool in hot climates, weather or work sites. For these clothing items, the total heat loss (THL) rating should be high, which means the fabric emits more heat, leaving the wearer cooler. Both conductive (dry) and evaporative (wet) heat is taken into consideration when calculating the THL. In addition, all flame resistant clothing receives an arc rating. Arc ratings refer to the amount of heat energy that can pass through the fabric before second degree burns could result. An energy breakopen threshold is also calculated for flame resistant gear if flames cause holes in the fabric during arc testing. This number is expressed in calories per centimeter squared.
Border States sells many clothing items for employees who may be exposed simultaneously to heat and fire; three of our most impressive products include:
- Bulwark Flame Resistant Fleece Sweatshirt: With an arc rating of EBT 11.5 calories/cm², this fleece sweatshirt is great for layering with other flame resistant clothing if the outdoor temperature fluctuates during the day from cool to hot.
- Bulwark Flame Resistant Dress Uniform Shirt: This presentable, sharp shirt has an arc rating of 8.6 calories/cm². It’s ideal for supervisors who may be meeting with clients and working at a site on the same day.
- Bulwark Flame Resistant Excel ComforTouch Work Shirt: With sleeve vents, this shirt has an 8.6 calories/cm² arc rating.
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