New heat index rules are designed to fight workers’ kidney problems

The Consejo de Seguridad Ocupacional has approved rules that cover employees who work outdoors in hot conditions. The new rules are linked to an effort to reduce the cases of kidney failure in Guanacaste, but they cover the entire country.

The new regulations were signed in Nicoya Saturday by President Luis Guillermo Solís and the minsters of Trabajo and Salud, Víctor Morales Mora and Fernando Llorca Castro.

The regulations create an index based on temperature, wind velocity, physical activity and the type of clothing workers wear.

The  Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social conducted a study of kidney failure in 2014.

Since it was first identified that high rates of kidney failure exist in the young, male, working populations along the Pacific coast of Central America, many theories have surfaced  as to the root of the problem. Although prolonged dehydration is agreed upon in the scientific community as a likely candidate, many others have been proposed.

Some of the others include: exposure to pesticides from the sugar cane work many of the afflicted participate in, consumption of a homemade liquor that is popular in the rural regions where the problem is most prevalent and chronic consumption of pain medications possibly linked to the aches and pains of a manual labor workforce. Genetics could also play a part, but researchers seem to agree that environmental factors are most likely to blame.

The Caja agrees that dehydration is a problem.

The thermal index is determined by a formula that is spelled out in an appendix to the regulations.

There are five stages of increasing impact of the heat. Employers can provide remedies ranging from hydration to rest to shade for the workers.

Regional ministry offices will be providing additional information, mainly in areas where the sun’s heat will crete conditions that generate a high thermal index. Employers are encouraged to send workers for a renal checkup at Caja clinics.

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