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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Heat impacts outdoor workers, enthusiasts

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | June 5, 2014


Although the calendar marks June 21 as the first official day of summer, daytime temperatures aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany are already on the rise.

Base officials are urging Marines and civilian-Marines to use caution when working or participating in outdoor activities.

The season’s fun and dangers are just as present as the sun’s heat, they noted.

“Nearly all heat-related illnesses can be prevented with proper precautions and controls,” Merrill E. Dickinson, installation safety manager, Risk Management Office, MCLB Albany, said. “Implementing these precautions is a leadership function. Supervisors at all levels should ensure their employees receive heat-related illness prevention training, closely monitor the wet bulb globe temperature index and offer their employees frequent work breaks when working outdoors.”

The best way to remain healthy during hot weather is to stay hydrated, according to Stacey Williams, safety specialist, RMO, MCLB Albany.

“Without enough liquids, the body will not effectively cool itself,” Williams said. “Therefore, drink plenty of water and avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks.”

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough. Body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken, such as drinking water frequently and resting in the shade or air conditioning.

Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and can result in death, according to OSHA’s website, www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion are dizziness, weakness, headache and thirst. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are easily prevented and treated with aggressive hydration and by getting a person out of the heat.

Heat stroke is the progression of heat exhaustion to a life-threatening condition, Williams said.

When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes, according to the CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.

 “Heat stroke can lead to death so it is very important to do everything possible to ensure it does not get to that stage,” Williams said.

Safety officials also recommend those who have to be outside to wear loose, light-colored clothing, take lots of breaks and find a place to cool off.

Employees working indoors can monitor current temperatures, humidity and heat index by logging on to the base’s website, www.albany.marines.mil, and click on the “Heat Stress Flag Condition,” according to Williams.

“Personnel outdoors can monitor the current heat stress condition by using their cellphones to access the website or observe colored flags, which may be displayed throughout the installation,” he said.

Heat stress conditions are categorized into four flag condition warnings based on the wet bulb globe temperature reading. The warnings consist of green, yellow, red and black.

A green flag condition is for WBGT readings between 80 to 84.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Heavy exercises for unacclimated personnel will be conducted with caution and under constant supervision.

A yellow flag is for WBGT readings between 85 to 87.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Strenuous exercises or physical labor will be curtailed for unacclimated, newly-assigned Marines and civilian-Marines for the first three weeks aboard the base. Outdoor classes or working directly in the sun should be avoided.

A red flag indicates WBGT readings between 88 to 89.9 degrees Fahrenheit, and all physical training and strenuous outdoor activities are to be curtailed for at least the first three weeks for Marines and civilian-Marines new to their command. Regular activities should be limited to six hours per day for new personnel.

Under black flag conditions, which are for WBGT readings, 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, all nonessential physical activity will be halted for all personnel.

According to Williams, essential activities are those associated with scheduled exercises, or critical production work and maintenance where the disruption would cause undue burden on personnel or resources, be excessively extensive or significantly reduce a unit’s readiness.

The following are 10 ways to prevent heat-related illnesses:

1. Drink cool water. Drink cool water in small amounts frequently. Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks, which cause dehydration.

2. Dress appropriately. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat when working outside.

3. Provide ventilation in the work area. Good airflow increases evaporation of sweat, which cools the skin.

4. Adapt work. Assign a lighter workload and longer rest periods during heat stress conditions. Short, frequent work-rest cycles are best.

5. Monitor. Check the current heat stress condition (wet bulb globe temperature) and workers’ responses to these conditions at least hourly.

6. Acclimate. Build up tolerance for working in the heat. Heat tolerance is normally built up over a one- to two-week time period.

7. Train workers. Train workers to recognize signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.

8. Reduce work for anyone at risk. Manage work activities and match them to employees’ physical conditions.

9. Check with a doctor. Check with a doctor before working in hot environments. Certain medical conditions, such as heart conditions and diabetes, and some medications, can increase the risk of injury from heat exposure.

10. Get help immediately. Get emergency medical attention immediately if someone has one or more of the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Emergency numbers for MCLB Albany are 911 from a base phone or 229-639-5911 from a cellular phone.

For more information, call 229-639-5249.