I’ve lived in Central Texas my entire life, and I really can’t recall a summer that has been more unbearably hot than this one. The sad part is, as miserable as it’s been, there is no end in sight. As I write this in mid-August, we have set the record with the most consecutive days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (36 days). We also will likely approach the record for the most days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in a year. The previous record was 90 days in 2011.
In addition to this crazy heat, we are in the middle of a very serious drought. We are way behind our average annual rainfall and again, no end is in sight.
Staying safe this summer
I’ve never had a summer where I worry about the heat more than this summer. I am constantly checking the predicted high temperatures and the heat index. I worry each day about our team out in the field. In addition to the exceptionally high temps each day that are almost 105 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit, the evening temps never go down enough to give any relief.
Our highest summer work priority must be the health, wellbeing and safety of every employee. My managers and I start every meeting with an update and discussion about the current status of our team. We have implemented several strategies to help us cope with the danger and stress of the summer.
Putting practices in place
Besides education and awareness, our company implements a multi-pronged strategy to beat the heat during the summer months, including:
- Posting signs throughout our offices with reminders of what symptoms to look for, so employees will recognize heat stress and exhaustion.
- Offering training to analyze the color of urine so a person can tell whether they are hydrated or on the verge of dehydration.
- Regularly discussing the importance of proper sleep and rest, diet, the constant intake of fluids, and the detriments of alcohol use.
- Investing in several commercial ice machines that are now located at each office.
- Providing two-gallon thermoses and electrolyte packets for all our field people daily.
- Investing in new field hats that have fabric on the back to keep the sun off the neck area.
- Providing everyone with cooling neck pillows that can be kept on ice and then worn around the neck to help lower body temperature.
- Asking the supervisors and managers out in the field to regularly check on our folks, deliver water and sports drinks to them, and make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids.
- Proactively scheduling service calls. We won’t schedule attic work in the afternoon as temperatures there reach unbearable numbers. We also are flexible with our technicians’ routes and will cut back on the number of services when necessary and requested.
Working together to avoid danger
So far this year, we have had three service specialists require medical attention because of heat stress. All recovered quickly and were able to return to work after several days of rest and recuperation.
What we all do in the field is hard work, and when temperatures reach these high levels, we must do business differently. It’s absolutely critical that we communicate effectively and work hard to educate each other on the dangers of heat stress and heat exhaustion. With everyone working together and watching out for one another, we can survive this unprecedented heat wave. We just have to hang in there until October!