Working During A Heatwave: Recognizing Extreme Weather Workers

Life in the Heat Dome

The US and Canada are grappling with the first extreme climate event of the summer, a “once-in-a-millennium” heat dome that has set record temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, with the usually temperate climate reaching dangerous highs of 116°F in some places, causing roads to crumble. However, there are many people still working during the heatwave not because they want to, but because their jobs are essential for everyone’s wellbeing and survival.

Recognizing Extreme Weather Workers

Many if not all these jobs didn’t get a break when the pandemic hit either and now are being asked to take on additional risk by working in the sweltering heat. Before everyone takes off for July 4 festivities, we’d like to call out and recognize the people that still show up even when it’s too hot to think outside:

  • Sanitation Workers – Garbage, sanitation, and trash processing still needs to continue as much as possible during extreme weather, or you’ll have another threat to public health on your hands. Not to mention the smell of hot garbage isn’t exactly a summer breeze.
  • Cold Shelter Volunteers – Many cities have organized “cold shelters” – public spaces where vulnerable members of the community can show up and get some respite from the cold. Volunteers are out hitting the bricks only on the hottest days to make sure everyone knows where to go.
  • Delivery Drivers/Postal Workers – If you are like me and hastily ordered a personal A/C unit on Amazon that arrived in the middle of everything, you have the scores of delivery personnel and postal service workers to thank, as well as supply drivers working overtime to keep the shelves stocked.
  • Steel Welders – Construction jobs are always dicey in extreme heat, but we’re calling out steel welders since they are required to wear some of the thickest and heaviest PPE on site, to protect themselves from the dangerous fumes that steel working produces. 
  • Parks and Rec Workers – The possibility of a wildfire is always a big danger during a heatwave, but fortunately there’s a job for that. Parks and Rec staff spend most of the summer putting out small fires, creating defensive fire barriers, and providing smoke shelters and first response in remote areas.
  • Farm Harvesters – Can it get any more essential? No matter the temperature outside, summer is harvest season on the farm. If nobody is there to handpick certain fruits and vegetables or upkeep livestock, they’ll never make it to your dinner table, and I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s not preferable.

Stay Cool and Safe

Consumer demand is on the rise, but the heat is still on in several ways. In addition to wild and wooly weather all over the country including flash floods and tornadoes in the Midwest, we’re only at the beginning of a widespread labor shortage that will put even more strain on those professions that require lots of outdoor time. Give them all the support they need and keep them safe!

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