Work in Hypoxic Conditions

The Medical Commission of the Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme
(UIAA MedCom) gives recommendations on how to provide health and safety for
employees in different kinds of low oxygen atmospheres. So far, no
recommendations exist that take into account the several factors the authors
have outlined in the report.

The health and safety recommendations of several countries were analysed for
their strength and deficiencies. The scientific literature was checked
(Medline, etc.) and evaluated for relevance of the topic. Typical situations of
work in hypoxia were defined and their specific risks described. Specific
recommendations are provided for any of these situations.

The authors defined four main groups with some subgroups (main risk in
brackets): short exposure (pressure change), limited exposure (acute altitude
disease), expatriates (chronic altitude disease), and high-altitude populations
(re-entry pulmonary oedema). For healthy unacclimatized persons, an acute but
limited exposure down to 13% O2 does not cause a health risk. Employees should
be advised to leave hypoxic areas for any break, if possible. Detailed advice
is given for any other situation and pre-existing diseases.

If the specific risk of the respective type of hypoxia is taken into account, a
pragmatic approach to provide health and safety for employees is possible. In
contrast to other occupational exposures, a repeated exposure as often as
possible is of benefit as it causes partial acclimatization.

More information - Source: The Annals of Occupational Hygiene