Avoiding work related heat illness

It’s that time of year when the transition from cool to warm season acclimatization becomes the next big issue for outdoor workers and athletes.

The video below was produced after some heavy thinking in the aftermath of wildland firefighter Caleb Hamm‘s death on the CR 337 Fire in Palo Pinto County, TX in July of 2011.  While his death is tragic, it also serves as a simple reminder to snack throughout the day and make sure Gatorade or Powerade comprises 1/3 to 1/2 of your daily fluid intake during physical exertion in hot weather, because drinking too much water causes hyponatremia.

Although the film and the reports linked were written with wildland firefighters in mind, the concepts and principles apply to any worker or athlete who undergoes physical exertion for extended periods of time in hot weather.  If the warm season is already upon you, begin acclimatizing now, continue your physical fitness routines, get into the habit of consuming healthy snacks every 2-3 hours to keep your energy levels up, and supplement your daily fluid intake with liquid electrolytes like Gatorade – preferably G2, as regular Gatorade has too much sugar.  I intend in no way at all to make light of Hamm’s passing, but taking frequent breaks does not mean workers are weak, nor will it cut down in overall production.  It’s easy to get short sighted and take on a macho, invincible complex while performing dangerous work, such as firefighting, but there’s only one false move in those situations.  No fire is worth dying over.

Stay safe and cool this summer!


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