Heat Stroke Is a Matter of Life and Death for Mascots

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.

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


Mascots Beat The Heat – Part 1

Hot and Sweaty in the Mascot

Mascot performing is a hot, sweaty job. This is not ground-breaking news. Probably the most asked question of performers while in costume is, “You must be hot in there, huh?” or “How hot are you in that?” The typical sports fan or event attendee can only imagine how hot it gets inside a costume. And the performer inside certainly doesn’t need to be reminded of just how hot they feel!

How hot does it actually get inside a mascot costume?

There are claims of temperatures as high as 140 degrees on various websites, but there doesn’t appear to be actual hard data.

To answer this question, we need to gather some real data. The kind of data that we gather matters too. It would be possible to simply place a small ambient thermometer inside a mascot costume with a performer inside. And we could record the ambient temperature after 20 minutes, both with the performer at rest and with the performer very active. It also would be prudent to gather ambient temperature with the performer indoors (72°F) and outside on a hot day (+80°F).

However, the ambient temperature, both outside AND inside of the suit, does not give us a sense of what it feels like for the performer. It also doesn’t tell the whole story of the physical toll the heat takes on the performer.

Heat & Humidity inside the Mascot 

The measurement established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, which OSHA uses for workplace safety, is the wet-bulb globe temperature.  It measures temperature, humidity, wind speed, and visible and infrared radiation to give the perceived temperature a person is experiencing.  Anyone who lives in a humid state will tell you that the temperature alone doesn’t tell you how it feels.

Can we get WBGT (wet-bulb globe temperature) inside of a mascot suit with a performer?  With some real data in hand, we could begin to establish protocols for the length of time in costume and the length of breaks for performers that are hard to refute.

A modern wet-bulb globe thermometer

We are starting a quest for that kind of data.  More to come in the days and weeks ahead…

©Nick Carpenter/ National Mascot Association 2019