With the right equipment heatstroke is an immediately treatable condition. However, heatstroke can have disastrous long-term consequences on health if left untreated. Safe to Work speaks to CoolVest about its lightweight and portable heatstroke solution.
Brought on by a core body temperature of 40 degrees Celsius or higher, heatstroke can cause confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, a racing heart and a headache.
Considered an emergency condition, heatstroke can lead to devastating consequences such as brain, heart, kidney and muscle damage, coma, or even death if left untreated.
For anyone suffering heatstroke, the recommended treatment is to immediately lower their core body temperature by placing them in a bath of iced water.
However, as CoolVest founder and chief executive officer Jonathan Weinberg explains, an iced bath of water is the last thing you’re likely to find in some work environments, such as mine sites or at an army base, where his idea for CoolVest was born.
Following four unfortunate heatstroke fatalities during training, Weinberg developed a military grade heatstroke solution that could be used by the United Kingdom Special Forces.
Now, the CoolVest is being deployed in other industries characterised by physical roles in typically hot conditions, such as mining.
“Before CoolVest, the only effective way to immediately begin lowering someone’s core body temperature, which is the only way to treat potentially fatal heatstroke, was to immerse them in a bath of iced water, or try and use multiple smaller pre-cooled packs of ice (which were messy and underpowered),” Weinberg tells Safe to Work.
“Obviously this isn’t something that is available on most work sites and it can take anywhere between four and eight hours for suitable treatment to arrive to mine sites in remote areas.”
CoolVest fills this gap for a potentially life-saving solution, as a self-activating wearable product that does not require power or prior refrigeration before usage.
“We worked very closely with specialists to develop a device that weighs in at only three kilograms yet has the power to reduce a large person from a fatal body core temperature of 42 degrees down to a safe body core temperature of 37.5 degrees,” Weinberg explains.
The vest can be deployed anywhere, at any time and can be used while transporting the patient to the next stage of medical care, even by air.
To use CoolVest, the person assisting the patient needs to simply remove the vest from its container, fill the water reservoir with about three litres of water. The water can be of any quality, including rainwater and seawater. The reservoir is then connected to the vest and rolled in order to squeeze the water into the vest.
The vest will instantly become cold and needs to be rotated to ensure the cooling agent is mixed adequately before being laid on the bare chest of the patient. In extreme cases, the patient can be laid onto the vest if they are unable to have it placed on their chest.
Despite being known as a treatable condition, timing is essential for treating heatstroke. The sooner a patient is treated, the higher chance they have of making a full recovery without experiencing long-term health complications.
Once the vest is secured on the patient, it is recommended to leave CoolVest on them for at least 45 minutes.
Weinberg designed the CoolVest to be as light and easy to transport as possible, because this is a situation where every minute counts. The aim is to have a CoolVest placed at every location where there is typically a first aid kit and/or defibrillator.
“Minutes count with heatstroke and if you have CoolVest on hand in a remote mine site, treatment can begin within five minutes of identifying ongoing symptoms,” he says.
“If you have to wait several hours for treatment or medical evacuation, that worker could be written off for the rest of their working life with organ failure or brain damage.”
CoolVest has been tried and tested in some of the world’s most hazardous locations to decrease a patient’s core temperature from a potentially fatal 41-plus degrees, back to 37.5 degrees in less than an hour.
When compared with the time and costs of medically evacuating a patient, as well as the potential worker’s compensation costs down the line, CoolVest is an obvious solution for quick and safe treatment of heatstroke.
Following the passing of new industrial manslaughter laws in Queensland, the onus is on mining companies to prevent work industries and injuries, including heatstroke, more than ever.
With organisations and businesses facing penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment or fines exceeding $10 million, Weinberg says it is absolutely essential for mining companies to immediately take action and invest in proper protection for their workers.
“CoolVest has already saved lives in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Middle East and we are proud and delighted to offer our capability to Australia,” he says.
“Holding multiple granted patents, CoolVest is the only product on the market that ensures heatstroke goes from being a fatal condition to an immediately treatable one.
“Even if you’re getting a helicopter sent in, by the time it arrives it is often too late for the patient. This can expose businesses to years of workers compensation payments or even facing the new industrial manslaughter laws.”
CoolVest does not interfere with other life saving protocols such as CPR, if required, and the company provides work sites with full training upon purchase. This can be done either online or in person depending on individual requirements.
Coolvest has health and safety accreditation under the CE Mark, FDA (USA) and Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval rankings, making it safe for use in most jurisdictions worldwide especially Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas.
This feature also appears in the September edition of Safe to Work.