With heat waves hitting at full force this week, it’s worth repeating that working outdoors in extreme weather conditions is just another day at the office for some people, and many essential workers didn’t stop working since the pandemic started because their jobs were deemed essential.
Extreme heat is especially brutal, since heat stroke and other related illnesses come on fast and have few external symptoms. For all the personal risks these workers take in the extreme heat to keep the wheels of the economy moving, they deserve a special mention. Especially now, since they are all required to wear face masks while doing it!
We’ve made a list of 5 essential professions that have it rough in the dog days of summer, in no particular order:
Bridge & Highway Construction Workers
We’ve all seen them holding orange caution flags and diverting traffic around construction when you need to get out of town, but next time look at the wavy heat lines coming off the road. Take the hottest day in summer, surround yourself with scalding hot tar and asphalt, add in the risk for serious personal injury, and you’ve got an idea of what it’s like to maintain the nation’s highways.
There’s nothing quite like the stench of hot garbage, and if you’re a sanitation worker you get to be hip-deep in it all day long in addition to wearing thick cotton jumpsuits as uniforms. The old argument is they get paid enough to deal with it, but we’re pretty sure you can’t put a price on hauling human waste in 100-degree heat.
Package & Mail Carriers
They may switch to wearing short pants, but summer doesn’t bring much relief from winter when it comes to mail carriers, whose job is pretty much being outside in the sweltering heat six days a week hauling heavy things. Next time you receive a package, offer a bottle of water in return.
Grocery stores in America never seem to run out of produce, and the farm laborers that make it all possible simply don’t get enough recognition, especially in the summer, when they face grueling conditions during one of the busiest harvesting seasons in the year. Farm laborers—mostly migrant workers—are the real reason we never run short on corn, tomatoes, and other staple foods.
Most people don’t realize that landscaping firms deal with a fair amount of heat-related illness in their line of work, simply because summertime is when most homeowners decide to do landscaping projects. If landscapers are working hard to make your yard beautiful this summer, serving lemonade on a hot day never goes out of style.
The dangers of hot weather can easily go unnoticed amid the added weight of COVID-19 safety, and we want everyone to be as safe as humanly possible while working in it this summer. If your job demands you to be outside in extreme heat, review OSHA’s heat-related illness prevention guide and remember to grab some water, rest, and shade.
A version of this post was previously published on the HALO Recognition Blog