Arboriculture is a physically demanding job at the best of times.
Add to this the extensive safety equipment we wear and the gruelling heat many of us must work in and you have a recipe for heat stress. When you are suffering from heat stress, you are a danger to yourself and those around you. So what can we do about it?
What is heat stress?
First things first, let's define heat stress.
Humans have a core body temperature of 37 degrees. When the body heat starts to climb above this point, there will be a noticeable effect on the persons wellbeing and behaviour. This is heat stress.
- Agitation or confusion.
- Excessive thirst.
- Increased heart rate.
What to do?
If you suspect you are suffering from heat stress, it is very important you stop what you are doing immediately and seek out a shaded area. Continuing to work in this state, especially with dangerous equipment, will increase the chances of a serious accident.
Once you are in a shaded area, you should:
- Remove clothing.
- Apply cold water to the skin.
- Drink plenty of cool water.
- Place ice packs on effected areas.
- Fan yourself.
You should only return to work once your body heat has reached a safe temperature.
Do everything you can to avoid getting heat stress in the first place. As arborists, this is a touch more difficult for us as we work hard and need to wear extensive equipment for safety. This being said, there are a few things we can do:
- Drink drink drink!
Drink plenty of fluid when you are on the job. This will keep you hydrated and allow your body to sweat, maintaining a healthy body temperature.
- Take regular breaks.
Take five every so often and retreat to a shaded area. The job is important but so is your health.
- Be attentive.
When you are hard at work it can be easy to ignore subtle changes in your body. If you are working in conditions that could lead to heat stress, pay close attention to how you feel and be prepared to stop if you need to.
Arboriculture is a tough industry with plenty of physical work. It can be fun, it can be satisfying, but it can also be dangerous. You owe it to yourself and those around you to be the best arborist you can be. If this means doing all you can to avoid heat stress then so be it.
Remember the symptoms and the preventative measures you can take. Never, ever, work beyond your capabilities.