Hot Stuff: Sizing Up Safety Amid a Sizzling Summer

Published: 11/9, 2023

I grew up hearing my Mom make that observation every summer when temperatures in my central Virginia hometown made its way into the 90s. Hers was more a statement of acceptance than lament; as our 1920s-era house had no air conditioning, there really wasn’t much we could do about it except run the big floor fans and open every available window in hopes of catching any breath of a breeze at some point during the day or night.

Those in construction and other jobs performed outside or in un-cooled spaces are similarly resigned to carrying on through the heat during much of the year. Indeed, many people seem to thrive in such environments, preferring “sweating it out” over having to bundle up against the cold or being idled by rain and snow, when no work can often mean no pay.

During this summer of 2023, however, the resilience of outdoor workers has been challenged as never before by record lengthy periods of record-setting heat and humidity in many parts of the US. Even metropolitan Phoenix, where triple-digit temperatures literally and figurately come with the territory, experienced 31 consecutive days of highs above 100 degrees. (I could swear we endured similar stretches of blast furnace-like conditions during my youth, but climatological data for the time says otherwise.)

Now it’s easy to assume that the addition a few degrees on an already extremely hot day might make little difference to those used to working in such conditions. But as this summer’s heat wave has gone on, so too has the frequency of reports about construction workers being treated for heat exhaustion. Several heat-related deaths have also been recorded, though the total number won’t be known for several months.

Fortunately, there are also many reports of contractors being proactive about keeping their workers safe and productive under the most extreme conditions. The foundation of these strategies—gradual acclimation to hot weather work, water and shade breaks, and emergency response plans—is being augmented by measures such as adapting dust suppression sprays as daytime oases, rearranging shifts and heavy work to avoid the hottest times of the day, and even handing out juices and freeze pops (though without the jingle of the roaming ice cream truck). 

These measures defy “tough it out” mindset of years past, but we’ve learned a lot more about long-term effects of prolonged heat exposure. And at a time when skilled labor is in such short supply, few workers will want to be part of an organization that doesn’t go the extra mile to keep them safe during weather extremes.

Hopefully, the arrival of this issue of PDa brings with it moderate temperatures and an end to summer’s extremes--at least that’s what the calendar says is supposed to happen. But Mother Nature has shown a recent tendency to not only ignore calendar conventions, but also rewrite weather records on a more frequent, sometimes daily basis. This is a good time for contractors to reflect on the success of their heat safety practices, and look at ways they can be improved. 

After all, the summer of 2024 is just a few months away.



Jim Parsons, Senior Editor

See all news »

Cookies and Data Collection

This website is using cookies. A cookie is a small text file that the website requests to store locally on the visitor's computer. It contains a certain amount of information and a timestamp.

Cookies on this website

Temporary Cookies

We use temporary cookies ("sessions") in order to provide a functioning website. These cookies only contains a unique identifier and a timestamp, while any personal data is stored on our server. These cookies expires within one hour, and will be automatically deleted when you exit your webbrowser.

Less temporary cookies

In order to remember wether you have accepted cookies or not, we need to store a cookie containing a timestamp and a code. If you log in as a user on our website, you are also able to select wether you want to remain logged in or not. In case you decide to remain logged in, we will store another cookie on yuor device, also containing a code and a timestamp. No personal data is saved in these cookies. These cookies will expire and be automatically deleted within 30 days of your last visit, and you can delete them manually from within the webbrowser's settings.

Cookie for Google Analytics

We use Google Analytics in order to improve our vistor's experience on our website. We do not save PII (Personally Identifiable Information) using Google Analytics. To read more about the cookies stored, read more at Google Developers.

Inactivation of cookies

If you do not wish to accept cookies from our website (or others), you may turn it off in your webbrowsers security/privacy settings. You can also let your browser inform you each time a website tries to store a cookie, or choose to remove cookies that has already been stored.

See your browsers help pages in order to find out more on how to change these settings (the instructions will differ depending on what browser, operating system and what versions you are using).

Data Collection & Data Storage

The website may use Google Analytics and similar services to collect data about your visit on this website. No personal data is stored, only information about the visit itself, such as link clicks, page views, how long a certain page has been viewed and similar. The information can be used by us to analyze how visitors use our website, as well as to improve and optimize content and functionality on the website in the future. The information may also be used by Google (or an equivalent provider) to optimize information and ads, so that you receive more relevant/personalized search results or ads in the provider's other services.


This website use cookies
This website use cookies and data gathering to bring you the best possible experience.
You must accept this in order to get access to our content. - Read more »

Accept all Only necessary