I recently spent the better part of a sunny Saturday afternoon weeding, edging beds and spreading mulch. It was a beautiful afternoon that not only was sunny, but very hot and very humid. When I was done, I was wiped out. After a shower and bite to eat, I quickly fell asleep on our family room couch. I don’t remember what time I conked out, but let’s just say I didn’t even get a chance to hear Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison utter one of his trademark phrases like “Oh, that pesky DNA.”
In retrospect, I did several things right — and one thing very wrong — when dealing with extreme heat. What I did correctly was prepare for the hot day by applying a lot of sunscreen, wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and downing a lot of water before I got started (and throughout the afternoon). Where I failed was in not taking breaks. In my mind, if I would have stopped and sat down for a break, I would have lost momentum/motivation to finish the job. Admittedly, it was a dumb, unnecessary risk.
My brush with extreme heat was a pretty isolated incident for me. I live in Northeast Ohio (a region not known for having an abundance of sunshine), and I work in an air-conditioned office. I have a great appreciation for pest management professionals, many of whom deal with extreme heat in some of the worst possible locations, like warehouses, crawlspaces, on ladders/roofs, etc. I can’t imagine the physical and mental toll it takes to work in extreme heat for eight or more hours per day. It’s one of the reasons this month’s cover story, “It’s Getting Hot in Here”, reviews policies and procedures pest control companies should have in place for employees who work in extreme heat. For example, does your company have a heat illness preventive program? If not, it should. As noted in our cover story, such a program should outline how to build heat tolerance, access first aid, reduce heat stress, measure heat response to heat advisories and warnings and train employees.
“Pest control companies who have employees working outdoors (especially if it involves doing inspections outside a structure) should plan for safe work in hot environments,” Divya Sangam, spokesperson for ValuePenguin Healthcare, told PCT. “This includes providing employees with drinking water, providing protection from direct sunlight when possible (e.g., canopies, hats, sunscreen, shade), monitoring employees for signs of heat illness and making sure employees have enough health coverage so they can seek timely medical help.”
And extreme heat has other pest control-related impacts. As is also discussed in this month’s cover story, sun and heat can affect equipment performance and lifespan; wreak havoc on service vehicles’ mechanical and electrical systems; and destroy pesticides locked in service vehicle toolboxes.
Lastly, extreme heat is becoming the new norm, another indicator of global climate change. As Edward Ricciuti wrote in “Range Finder”, this changing climate is having an effect on the geographical ranges of animals of all sizes. This trend may have important long-term implications for pest control business.
I’m sure that with everything else on your plate, the impact of extreme heat on your service vehicles and equipment — and most importantly, your employees — is not top of mind. But we hope this month’s series of cover story articles will encourage you to pause and think about what your company is and isn’t doing in this important area.