Heat Stress

  1. RF 101

    When it comes to working in the telecom industry, it’s no secret that there are a wide variety of different dangers. Most dangers can be seen – whether it has to do with falling, having things fall on you, etc. But not all dangers are visible with the human eye – or even any human sense. This week our Gear Experts® are going to break down the hidden danger of RF.

    More Than Meets the Eye


     

    RF, or radio frequency, is any electromagnetic wave frequency. In the telecom industry, this is the energy that is emitted from radios or telecommunications equipment. Electromagnetic wave frequencies can’t always be seen or heard, but they are absorbed by your body and, if overexposed, can cause serious harm.

    The Dangers of RF


     

    So, now that we know what RF is and that just because we can’t see, hear, or otherwise sense, it doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Let’s cover some of the effects of RF exposure. The primary effect is heating – think of it like a microwave oven which uses electromagnetic waves to heat food from the inside out. Keep in mind, that while a microwave does use electromagnetic waves to cook food, it is a very large amount of power being concentrated into a tiny steel box. Most telecom related RF situations will not be nearly as drastic as a microwave oven. However, the basic concept is the same. When the electromagnetic waves are absorbed by your body they heat it up from the inside out and you begin to experience RF sickness.

    Symptoms of RF Sickness


     

    RF Sickness won’t be noticed by most people right away. In fact, some people may never even realize they have it, which can cause added risk. The reason people don’t always know they have RF sickness is because the primary symptom is heat. It can be difficult to determine whether you may have RF sickness, or you simply haven’t been drinking enough water and might be dehydrated. With that being said, the symptoms of RF Sickness are most commonly compared to having a fever – making it even more difficult to detect.

    Effects of RF Sickness


     

    RF heats your body from the inside out. That means that as you are exposed to it, it is raising your core temperature. It’s not the same as standing next to a heater where you would feel the heat on your skin rather the heat would begin radiating outward from your core.

    As your core begins to heat and your body begins to lose the ability to prevent your temperature from rising you can start to experience heat stress. The symptoms of heat stress include rash, cramps, dizziness, headache, nausea, confusion, heavy sweating, weakness, seizures, and unconsciousness. We’ve covered heat stress in its entirety on a previous blog post which you can find by clicking here. 

    While all symptoms of heat stress are serious and should be treated immediately, we want to focus on confusion for just a second. Confusion also referred to as irrational behavior, can lead to costly mistakes and potentially fatal accidents. In fact, it is difficult to know if some tower fatalities were caused because of human error, or if confusion caused by RF sickness was to blame.

    RF Exposure


     

    The actual full breakdown of how the human body reacts to RF exposure can get pretty technical and is beyond the scope of a blog post. But, boiled down to its most basic explanation, our bodies are more receptive to lower frequencies. And, because of the way our bodies react to RF frequencies the way that safe exposure limits are expressed is more of a bell curve rather than a straight line. Beyond that, RF exposure tracking uses a 6-minute averaging rule.

    6-Minute Averaging Rule


     

    What the 6-Minute Averaging Rule means is that over the course of 6 minutes your average exposure level cannot exceed that of 100% of the FCC limits. Essentially, what this means is that you could have a brief period where you are at 150% of the FCC limits, but then for the next few minutes you are only at 25%. This is acceptable because the average exposure level over the course of 6 minutes is below 100%.

    FCC RF Limits


     

    As we mentioned above, the FCC has outlined limits for RF exposure that are calculated using the 6-minute averaging rule (0.1-hour periods). The FCC RF limits are applied to “normal environmental conditions and for incident electromagnetic energy of frequencies from 10 MHz to 100 GHz, the radiation protection guide is 10 mW/cm.(2) (milliwatt per square centimeter) as averaged over any possible 0.1-hour period.” Below is a breakdown of what this means.

    • Power density: 10 mW/cm2 for periods of 6 minutes or more
    • Energy density: 1 mW.-hr/cm2 (milliwatt hour per square centimeter during any 6-minute period.

    It is important to note that this guide applies whether the exposure is continuous or intermittent within the 6-minute averaging period.

    Limiting RF Exposure


     

    When it comes to limiting RF exposure there are two main components. The first component is proper training while the second component is a safety monitor.

    Proper Training

    Just like everything in the tower industry, training is an important part of ensuring safety. We have partnered with industry-leading training companies like Safety LMS to offer an online Fundamentals of RF/EME Radiation course. This course was designed to help ensure that employees can recognize the hazards of RF that exist on tower sites – whether that is a tower or a rooftop.

    RF Monitors

    An RF monitor complements training. After all, being trained to understand and handle a hazard is great, but when you cannot detect the hazard with your senses, it’s kind of hard to make sure you’re not exceeding safe exposure limits. One reason why an RF monitor is so important is that it is a shaped probe/shaped response device. What that means is that it has the ability to account for all RF frequencies in the surrounding area (like a rooftop with multiple different types of antennas) and calculate the amount of exposure from each. It then combines those numbers and bounces that against the safe working limits.

    With personal RF monitors like the FieldSENSE 2.0 Personal RF Monitor you can rest assured that you will be able to accurately detect RF. We covered the FieldSENSE 2.0 Personal RF Monitor in a previous blog post which you can read by clicking here.

    We recently featured Max Birch, the lead engineer for FieldSENSE, as our guest on our podcast: Gear Up with Gear Experts. Max dropped some knowledge bombs about RF and helped break down some of the complicated parts of RF awareness and safety. You can find that podcast episode by clicking here. 

    If you have any questions about RF safety or RF Monitors, click here to contact one of our Gear Experts®.

    Click here to see our blog post about the FieldSENSE 2.0 Personal RF Monitor

    Click here to view the FieldSENSE 2.0 Personal RF Monitor

    Click here to listen to our RF Safety podcast episode

    **The content of this blog is not intended to replace proper, in-depth training. Manufacturer’s instructions must also be followed and reviewed before any equipment is used.

    FieldSENSE: Guide to Recalibration


     

    Gear Up with Gear Experts: The Podcast


     

    If you haven’t already checked out Gear Up with Gear Experts, our podcast dedicated to at-height, industry, and construction, it is available for download! You can find it on all major podcast listening platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, + your favorite podcatcher of choice. And, you can head on over to gearexperts.com to follow us on social media, check out our detailed show notes, and sign up for updates.

    Get Social


     

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  2. Heat Stress 101

    It seems like just yesterday we were experiencing a polar vortex through the middle of the US and begging for warmer weather. Well, that warmer weather is finally here. Working in the cold has risks – we broke those down in our Cold Stress 101 blog post and working in the heat has its own set of risks. This week our Gear Experts® are going to talk about heat stress, symptoms, and ways to prevent it.

    Heat Stress


     

    Like we mentioned above, the heat of the summer can not only be uncomfortable, but it can have a huge impact on the job site in the form of heat stress and UV overexposure. Heat stress not only decreases employee performance, costing employer’s money and productivity, but it can be a very serious health risk. In fact, heat stress hospitalizes nearly 3,000 workers every year. Heat stress can take many forms like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

    Heat Stress Symptoms, Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke


     

    Heat Stress Symptoms

    Some symptoms of heat stress include:

    • Rash;
    • Cramps;
    • Dizziness;
    • Headache;
    • Nausea;
    • Confusion;
    • Heavy Sweating;
    • Weakness
    • Seizures; and
    • Unconsciousness

    Heat Exhaustion

    Heat exhaustion is when the body is losing fluid faster than it’s being rehydrated. Headaches, physical weakness, heavy sweating, and nausea are all signs of heat exhaustion. If you experience these symptoms find a cool place to rest, stay out of direct sunlight, and try to rehydrate your body with fluids. If symptoms do not improve in a reasonable amount of time, seek medical attention.

    Heat Stroke

    Heat stroke is when your body can no longer regulate your temperature properly. Convulsions, loss of consciousness, lack of sweating, or difficulty breathing are all signs of heat stroke. If you experience these symptoms you need to seek medical attention immediately because they are potentially fatal.

    Hydration is Key


     

    Obviously, the best way to avoid heat stress is to avoid being outside in the heat. However, we know that isn’t a realistic tip because the world doesn’t stop moving on hot days. So, the next best way to avoid heat stress is proper hydration. Strenuous work and high-temperature environments can result in a worker losing multiple liters of water in a single hour.

    According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommendations, workers should be drinking between 24 and 32 ounces of water every hour. This amount could increase as temperatures rise.

    Clothing Plays a Role


     

    Clothing also plays a huge role when it comes to heat management. After all, wearing a winter coat in 100-degree weather isn’t exactly a good idea. Not only does clothing protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun (UV exposure), but it also allows the body to make the most of its natural regulatory processes (sweating).

    Summer Workwear

    Lightweight and loose-fitting clothing will maximize the effectiveness of sweating. Light colored clothes will help reduce the amount of heat your clothing absorbs and, as mentioned above, will help protect your skin from UV rays. Full brim hard hats help keep that hot sun from direct contact with your skin as well.

    Hard hats / Helmets

    Unfortunately, when it comes to hard hats and helmets that are required on the job site, the options you have are often limited. A hard hat or helmet that is exposed to direct sunlight can be like having a little oven on top of your head. On top of that, full brim hard hats don’t exactly offer a ton of coverage for sun protection.

    Hard hat Neck Shades


     

    With hard hats being required, but not having a whole lot of protection, hard hat neck shades have stepped in to bridge that gap. Hard hat neck shades easily connect to the suspension of any hard hat or helmet and can make a serious difference when working in the summer heat.

    Chill-Its

    The Chill-Its line from Ergodyne have been designed to help prevent heat stress and add additional comfort when working in the heat. For example, the 6717 Hard Hat Pad with Neck Shade helps protect the back of the neck from UV exposure while adding a little extra padding for comfort. If you’re looking for more advanced protection, the 6670CT Neck Shade has a built-in cooling towel. The towel is made of a PVA material that when contacted with water or sweat activates a super evaporative cooling process.

    Heat stress is no joke and prevention should be taken seriously. If you need more information on heat stress, how to prevent heat-related illnesses, or any of our cooling products, click here to contact one of our Gear Experts®.

    **The content of this blog is not intended to replace proper, in-depth training. Manufacturer’s instructions must also be followed and reviewed before any equipment is used.

    Click here to see our selection of neck shades

    Click here to see our selection of cooling gear

    Heat Stress 101: The Video


     

    Gear Up with Gear Experts: The Podcast


     

    If you haven’t already checked out Gear Up with Gear Experts, our podcast dedicated to at-height, industry, and construction, it is available for download! You can find it on all major podcast listening platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, + your favorite podcatcher of choice. And, you can head on over to gearexperts.com to follow us on social media, check out our detailed show notes, and sign up for updates.

     

    Get Social


     

    Be sure to follow us on social media to keep up with everything GME Supply has going on.

    Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | LinkedIn

    We’re Also on Snapchat


     

    Simply snap or screenshot this image ↓ to follow GME Supply!

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