What Does Heat Syncope Mean?
Heat syncope, also known as fainting and orthostatic dizziness, is a mild form of heat illness. The condition occurs when the body tries to cool itself by dilating its blood vessels to such an extent that blood flow to the brain is reduced. Individuals suffering from dehydration due to inadequate fluid replacement are particularly susceptible to the condition, as this results in reduced total blood volume.
Heat syncope is also associated with instances in which a worker has not adequately acclimatized to the temperature of the environment in which he or she is working. In addition to ensuring adequate fluid replacement, individuals beginning work in a hot environment may reduce their likelihood of heat syncope by slowly increasing the duration and intensity of their work to provide their body with enough time to acclimatize to increased work temperatures.
Safeopedia Explains Heat Syncope
The risk of heat syncope is an important occupational health and safety consideration within many work environments. Beyond the fact that the condition itself is an undesirable illness, instances of heat syncope may lead to additional health and safety hazards if the affected employee is engaged in safety-sensitive work, such as work that involves operating a hazard control or another significant amount of risk if proper safety behavior is not observed.
If a task requires employees to be subject to high-heat conditions while performing a safety-sensitive activity, it may be necessary to limit the total and short-term length of time that employees are allowed to perform that task. For instance, individuals who work in non-breathable hazmat suits may require frequent and regular breaks if the temperature within the suit is high enough to create a risk of heat syncope.
Individuals who experience heat syncope will usually recover within 10 to 15 minutes with only minimal treatment. However, first aid is still necessary to ensure that an affected worker does not experience further health problems. Typical first aid includes moving the affected employees to a cooler area, elevating their legs, having them sit or lie down and rehydrate, and monitoring them to ensure that their condition does not worsen.
Many jurisdictions do not have specific standards governing occupational heat exposure. However, the prevention of an illness such as heat syncope does fall under the general duty to ensure employee safety that exists within the United States as well as within other jurisdictions with advanced occupational health and safety regimes.