Firefighter Heat Stress Prevention Tips
Firefighting is hard, dangerous work at any time. But during the hot summer, the risks increase exponentially.
Whether it's heat cramps (involuntary muscle contractions), heat exhaustion (weakness, nausea, extreme fatigue) or heat stroke (caused by extremely elevated body temperature), you need to know how to protect yourself.
Equally important, your employer must identify heat stress risks and provide training to help prevent it.
Cal-OSHA's Injury and Illness Prevention Program requires that employers identify all health and safety hazards, including heat stress. This flyer spells out the basics of what employers need to do to insure that the workplace threat has been identified and training provided.
Tips on guarding against heat stress
NFPA 1584 outlines the best practices for firefighters in preventing heat stress and rehabilitating on the scene. Click HERE to download a PowerPoint presentation outlining NFPA 1584.
You can protect heat stress and more serious heat disorders in several ways:
- Maintain a high level of aerobic fitness.
- Acclimate yourself to the increased heat by gradually increasing work time in the heat, taking care to replace fluids, and resting as needed.
- Before work, drink 1 to 2 cups of water, juice, or a sport drink. Avoid excess coffee or other caffeine drinks.
- While working, take several fluid breaks every hour, drinking at least 1 quart of fluid. Drink as much as you can during the lunch break.
- After work, continue drinking to replace fluid losses. Always drink more than you think you need.
- When on the job, wear loose-fitting garments to enhance air movement. Wear cotton T-shirts and underwear to help sweat evaporate.
- Always train and work with a partner. Remind each other to drink lots of fluids and keep an eye on each other. If your partner suffers a heat disorder, start treatment immediately.
Links and Information
The following links will help provide more information on how you and your employer can prevent heat stress problems this fire season.
Rehabilitation -- Standards, Traps and Tools -- an article from Fire Engineering magazine, May, 2004, summarizing heat-related issues and the NFPA 1584 standards