August 2005

Battling the heat | Safe Solutions

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Battling the heat

by Harry Dietz
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As summer continues to keep its grip on most of the U.S., roofing contractors and workers must be increasingly vigilant to avoid health problems caused by high temperatures. Two heat-induced disorders of significant concern are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

To keep internal temperature in a safe range, the human body rids itself of excess heat through evaporation and radiation. During evaporation, the sweat glands move water to the skin's surface to be cooled by surrounding air, reducing the internal body temperature. Heat is dissipated by radiation when the heart pumps more blood; blood vessels near the skin surface expand, bringing more blood to the surface to be cooled by surrounding air.

These mechanisms can be stressed and possibly rendered ineffective during hot, humid weather conditions. When humidity is high, sweat does not evaporate and cool the body. Similarly, if the outside temperature is high, no heat transfer occurs as the body continues to move more blood to the skin surface in an effort to cool itself.

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