The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists electrical powerline installers and repairers as one of the deadliest occupations in the United States. Individuals in this profession need to understand that overexertion and heat stress, as well as bodily reaction, are the most common non-fatal accidents.
Heat stress is a known occupational hazard for many industrial and utility workers, contributing to preventable work-related accidents and injuries. As if working with high voltage electricity 50 feet in the air wasn’t dangerous enough. What’s less known is the most effective way to combat heat stress; modifying FR clothing for linemen.
Before we dive into how the right FR clothing can protect against heat stress, let’s first define heat stress and how to recognize it.
What is Heat Stress?
Heat stress occurs when the body cannot get rid of excess heat. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises, and the heart rate increases. As the body continues to store heat, a critical risk is presented if the person loses concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task. The individual may become irritable or sick and lose the desire to drink. Factors that contribute to heat stress are high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, and strenuous physical activities – all elements linemen face on the job.
Acclimating to variable environmental conditions is essential when working outdoors. When fighting heat and humidity, heatstroke can become a real concern for linemen who don’t wear protective and effective moisture wicking apparel.
What Are Heat Stress Symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related illnesses are preventable. Electrical powerline installers need to understand the risks and the warning signs of heat stress. These include:
- High body temperature
- Hot, red, or damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle pain or spasms
Why Is Heat Stress A Concern for Lineman?
Heat stress is one of the leading causes of accident & injury on the job. – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
From 2002 – 2016 20 worker deaths were a direct result of heat stress. – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
A total of 5,190 workers suffered from an occupational injury in 2016. – Bureau of Labor Statistics
Linemen are constantly working outdoors in variable conditions. Whether you are fighting heat and humidity, or the cold weather, bundled in layers of protective apparel, heatstroke can become a real concern. Moreover, the protective clothing required by law for linemen can often be hot with limited breathability and moisture wicking capabilities, keeping workers hot, sticky and uncomfortable.
3 Important Reasons Why Reducing Heat Stress is Vital for Lineman Workers
1. Heat Stress Can Reduce Job Performance
When the body is dehydrated, which can be brought on by heat stress, mental performance and decision-making capabilities are often compromised. A study focused on the effect of dehydration on workers showed that dehydration could cause a decline in visual motor tracking, short-term memory and attention span, and a reduction in reaction time and arithmetic efficiency.
These factors can reduce overall job performance and affect your ability to function properly on the line. Learn how the moisture wicking fabrics in your FR garments can keep you cool and comfortable on the job.
2. Heat Stress Can Cause A Loss of Focus and Concentration
When the body is taxed for any reason, it can drastically affect focus and concentration. If linemen are continually required to adjust uncomfortable apparel, or if they feel damp and uncomfortable, focus will not be 100-percent on the task at hand.
In fact, a NASA study using telegraph key operators in warm working conditions concluded that as the working temperature increased, the job-related errors increased as well. In 80 degree temperatures, the operators made 5 errors in one hour, and 19 errors after three hours. At 90 degrees, the errors increased to 9 the first hour, and 27 in three hours. At 95 degrees, mistakes were drastically higher, at 60 in one hour and 138 in three hours.
This experiment shows that rising temperatures can affect focus and concentration and increase the likelihood of worker-related errors.
Learn more about apparel that can help regulate body temperature.
3. Heat Stress Can Reduce Overall Worker Safety
Body temperature regulation is another crucial factor for on-the-job safety. If utility workers cannot manage their core temperature, their performance, concentration and safety will all be negatively affected.
- Maintaining a consistent body temperature, even with variable outdoor temperature, can help improve worker comfort
- An improvement in temperature regulation will improve focus and concentration
Being proactive by selecting FR apparel that can better control body temperature can help workers maintain a consistent body temperature and reduce the risk of heat stress.
How Moisture Wicking FR Clothing Protects Against Heat Stress
Linemen can’t control their work conditions. But they can choose the right apparel to help them stay cool and dry on the job. One of the most effective ways to combat heat stress is to modify workwear.
Why is moisture wicking technology vital? When moisture is left in a garment…
- It blocks heat from escaping.
- It leaves you more susceptible to heat illness.
- Your body temperature rises quicker.
- You become uncomfortable.
- You have less focus on the task at hand.
The superior moisture wicking fabrics used by Lakeland combine two types of fiber:
- Hydrophobic (water hating) Fibers
- Hydrophilic (water loving) Fibers
Superior moisture wicking lineman apparel will:
- Pull moisture off your skin.
- Transport moisture and sweat through the garment to the outside surface, quickly.
- Spread moisture on the exterior of the fabric so it can dissipate, to help you feel drier, faster.
The absorption rate and spreading speed of your lineman apparel can drastically affect your body temperature. If your FR shirt absorbs your sweat and moisture and spreads it quickly, it means you are less likely to become overheated and dehydrated on the job due to heat related stress.
How To Select The Right FR Workwear
Consider the following features:
- Look for a garment that offers permanent moisture wicking technology.
- Designed with arm mobility to accommodate overhead reaching and side to side movements.
- Dual-certified protection with safety and maneuverability in mind.
- Check garment fabric composition to ensure a 60/40 fiber blend.
- Flat seam construction to maximize comfort.
- Seamless underarms designed to eliminate seam pull and shirt rise and chafing.
- Tag-free back collar to eliminate annoying labels.
How Does Layering FR Workwear Help Combat Heat Stress?
One factor linemen understand well is the unpredictable nature of weather conditions. For this reason, it is vital to always select FR apparel that is constructed with permanent moisture wicking fibers in every single layer. Lakeland has the only layering system in the industry, from base layer to button-up shirt, hoodie to outer jacket. Lakeland’s layering system offers inherent moisture wicking technology that will pass moisture from layer to layer, to keep you feeling cool, even in hot weather.