Rayner Reckons

Feb 01

Think safe in the heat!

Posted on Friday, February 01, 2019

This week I was talking with a colleague from the south west of the state. The topic of conversation was the recent heat waves and how they have been coping with it.  One of the points they mentioned was the decision to postpone a sheep sale to avoid the worst of the heat, and then to start subsequent ones earlier in the day.

I thought that was a great move.  Apparently while there was general support, there were still some people who were critical of the move!  I’ve been scratching my head about that for a few days now!  

All I can put that criticism down to is that there are just some people who like to criticise. However, it does expose the school of thought that does seem to prevail with some people that unless you are uncomfortable, you aren’t working hard enough!

I really struggle with that idea. I don’t think its helpful and often leads people to make decisions that can actually be dangerous. I think we tend to underestimate the impact that heat has on us. I know that I have often failed to consider the impact that heat and manual work will have on me. It's important to remember that there is a big difference between being hot, and overheating.  Overheating can have some pretty serious impacts that if not addressed can lead to death. 

Heat Exhaustion is something many people have experienced.  It's often characterized by sings like headaches; increased thirst; dizziness and nausea.  However if it's ignored it could continue to show itself with poor coordination, anxiety and poor decision making.

Heat exhaustion can be pretty debilitating and requires some immediate attention. Ideally you should lie down in some air conditioning or shade; drink plenty of water.  If you are very hot, then cooling your body with a cold shower or bath can also help. 

As a firefighter, we often had to cool down on protracted incidents.  Not having access to showers or baths, we would take off as much clothing as we could (down to shirts and pants) and then we would often rest our forearms in buckets of water or in chairs that had arm rests which we filled with water before putting our hands and arms in the water.

There is some neat research that shows immersing your arms and hands in water and sitting in the shade cools your core temperate down much more quickly than simply resting in the shade.  

If you don’t address the signs of heat exhaustion, you risk the more drastic impact of heat stroke.  Heatstroke occurs when a persons temperature is greater than 40°C.  As a result they may then experience confusion, convulsions, or  coma.

As with the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heatstroke could see a person have: 

  • headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and confusion
  • having flushed, hot and unusually dry skin
  • being extremely thirsty
  • having a dry, swollen tongue
  • having a sudden rise in body temperature to more than 40°C
  • being disoriented or delirious
  • slurred speech
  • being aggressive or behaving strangely
  • convulsions, seizures or coma.
  • may be sweating and skin may feel deceptively cool
  • rapid pulse

Heat stroke is not to be taken lightly! If you notice any of the above signs of heatstroke in yourself or others, call 000 immediately for an ambulance. If you don’t treat heat stroke it can lead to permanent damage to vital organs or even death.

Heat can effect people very quickly.  Its vital not to think that you can’t be impacted or that you can get used to it!  While we think about the impact of heat, the time it takes to get over a case of exhaustion can see you recovering for a few days.   

Given the risks that heat poses, I reckon any plan to postpone work until its cooler is a sensible option.  There’s nothing so important it cant wait for a bit!


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