When we speak of mascot safety here at The National Mascot Association, it’s important to understand what is at stake. Our focus on safety is not just about avoiding the bruised shin or elbow. Mascot safety can sometimes mean life or death.
In July of 2019, a mascot performer in Japan collapsed and died from heat stroke while rehearsing a dance outside at 7:30 pm for 20 minutes. The recorded temperature when the performer collapsed and died was 28.7°C, which translates to 84°F. His mascot costume weighed 15 kg, about 35 lbs.
It’s important to give some more context to the circumstances around this unfortunate accident. The rehearsal did not start until 7:30 pm in the evening. Sunset had already occurred at 6:49 pm. Direct sunlight can drastically increase the temperature inside a costume. However, there was not the aggravating effect of direct sunlight on the performer.
84°F, however, is a much higher temperature than on average in Japan for July. The average July high in Japan is about 68°F. An almost 25% hotter than average temperature was experienced that day. This would suggest the performer was likely not acclimated to the heat. Our bodies need limited exposure to drastic heat temperature increases to allow the body to acclimate and maintain homeostasis.
And a 35 lbs mascot costume is a heavy costume. Mascot designers and fabricators strive to keep the overall weight as low as possible, often below 20 pounds. The weight was likely an additional strain on the performer.
The drastic heat temperature increase, lack of acclimatization, and heavy weight of the costume appear to have been compounding factors that led to fatal heat stroke. But these factors can and should have been considered that day. It only took 20 minutes for tragedy to strike!
What are the lessons from this horrible event? Are there protocols in place with your mascot performers to reduce the risk of heat stroke? Do your performers feel empowered to take a break when they feel they need one? Can performances and events with your mascot be altered, shortened or even cancelled when the risk of heat stroke is high?
Consider joining the National Mascot Association in common cause for performer safety. Adopting our voluntary safety guidelines send a powerful and positive message that the well being of your performers and fans is a top priority.
Sources: Japan Today, Aug 6, 2019: https://japantoday.com/category/features/kuchikomi/searching-for-ways-to-keep-performing-mascots-from-wilting-in-the-heat Independent(U.K.), July 31, 2019: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japan-heatwave-deaths-amusement-park-mascot-yohei-yamaguchi-a9028651.html The Asahi Shimbun, July 31, 2019: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201907300030.html