RICHLAND, Wash. Hanford Site tank farm employees will now benefit from a new physiological measurement program that improves safety. 

   Between 2014 and 2016, EM’s tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) conducted an extensive assessment to identify innovative methods to improve the physiological measurement of tank farm workers at Hanford, where summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

   The workers use extensive personal protective equipment (PPE), which often includes multiple layers of impermeable clothing tape-sealed to two pairs of gloves, booties, hoods and necessary respiratory protection. This PPE protects the worker from chemical and radiological hazards, but creates other physical threats, including the increased potential of heat stress.  

   Historically, the site conducted assessments for heat stress using periodic heart pulse rate measurement, and relied on self-reporting of systems. When workers had symptoms, they exited the work location, removed multiple layers of PPE and had their heart pulse rate measured.  

   Driven by the need to remotely assess heat stress, WRPS developed a physiological measurement program around the novel use of a remote heart pulse rate monitor. The contractor’s heat stress committee, composed of craft, operations, and management personnel, was reorganized and tasked with the challenge.

   The team’s innovation centers on use of a Bluetooth, chest-mounted heart pulse rate monitor, which allows remote, real-time assessment of heat stress for multiple individuals by a trained technician using a tablet. This enables increased productivity, reduces errors from delayed assessment and ensures detection of employee heat strain. 

   The team conducted significant testing of the heart pulse rate monitor and remote monitoring system. WRPS also educated and sought support for the program from a unionized workforce. Ongoing, comprehensive campaigns educated and involved employees to develop associated protocols and procedures. 

   The innovation has removed employees from harmful heat related tasks before developing heat stress symptoms; increased productivity due to reduced work stoppages associated with heat stress events; minimized time required to remove employees for heat stress assessment; improved compliance with regulatory criteria and EM expectations; and eliminated heat-related disorders to date.