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NSSGA Podcast

Aug 4, 2022

Libby is very excited to welcome Dr. Eric Lutz, Director of the Mining Safety Center of Excellence at the University of Arizona to the podcast today. Formerly the Mining Research Director at Spokane, Dr. Lutz has gained a vast amount of expertise, knowledge and experience in his more than 20 years in the mining industry. In today’s episode, he shares a story highlighting the importance of heat safety.

Episode Highlights:

  • One summer many years ago, a friend of Eric’s was working as a field geologist supervising a drill operation in the intense Texas heat
  • She got overheated and started feeling unwell and faint - a condition called syncope related to heat strain
  • She was able to recover by cooling off in air conditioning and hydrating
  • On her next rotation, she had another heat stress event, and it was a little more severe than the last one
  • This continued on for years where each subsequent event of getting overheated happened a little sooner, and it was a little more severe when it did happen
  • Now it's to the point where she has a very high level of heat susceptibility
  • When she gets overheated now, she is basically sick for 24 hours - feeling miserable, vomiting, feeling very sick, completely fatigued and wiped out 
  • Everyone needs to understand that when you get heat stressed, it is a cascade of events that occurs physiologically with your body reacting to trying to manage that overheating; that each time you're subsequently exposed to excessive heat, it'll be more severe and you'll be more susceptible to it
  • We have to  proactively manage our heat stress and keep ourselves cool when we're working in these very extreme environments
  • From subsequent exposures, your body goes through that cascade of events from heat cramps all the way through heat stroke, which is 90%, fatal and very severe
  • Through that cascade, you can intervene at any moment to get your body cooled off
  • Eric recommends that, if you're feeling hot, put your arm under cold water, run cold water over your left wrist, and, since there's a tremendous amount of blood flow through your left arm, you'll find that it cools you very rapidly


Toolbox Talk Discussion Questions:


  • Work must continue even when it’s hot outside. How can we check in with team members to ensure that everyone is safe in the summer?
  • Part of keeping yourself safe is knowing your own body and response to heat. Does anyone have a story about getting acclimated to heat?
  • Does anyone have a story about an experience with heat stress they’d like to share?


“She was working in the middle of nowhere outside of Midland, Texas in the middle of summer and supervising a drill operation there and she got overheated -  started not feeling very well, she started feeling faint.”

“Then the next rotation, she had another heat stress event, and it was a little more severe than the last one. She ended up feeling not only a little faint, but she had a headache that went with it that was quite extreme. And then that evening, after work back at the hotel, she was vomiting and felt extremely fatigued.”

“Each time you're subsequently exposed to excessive heat, it'll be more severe, and you'll be more susceptible to it.”

“As we work through our careers, we have to manage proactively our management of heat stress.”

“I live in Arizona. So certainly living in southern Arizona in the middle of summer, it's not unusual at all to be working in an environment that's basically 120 degrees Fahrenheit all day long when if you have any kind of physical demand, that increases that risk of heat strain that can occur.”

“Work on getting yourself cooled off and try to mitigate your heat risk.”

“It’s so important to remember that not only do we become more susceptible to heat illness, the more we're exposed to it, but also that you can really progress through the different levels of heat illness very quickly.”


National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association website