Hot enough for ya?
From the loading dock to the fuel desk, it's what everyone's talking about

By Greg Grisolano, Sandi Soendker, Jami Jones staff editors

As we roll into August, 2016 is poised to set U.S. heat records – one of the first being that June 2016 was the hottest month of record for the lower 48 states.

Last year was the warmest year the planet has experienced since the U.S. government started keeping records (which was sometime in the 1880s). If it seems that you hear the “warmest year ever” claim a lot, that’s because we’ve seen some serious heat records in the past decade. In fact, according to the National Aeronautic Space Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001.

NOAA reports that 2016 goes down as the third-warmest first six months on record, and there’s more to come. The National Weather Service is predicting excessive heat throughout the West Coast, New England and southeastern United States through September. Excessive heat advisories have already been issued throughout the Central Plains states as well.

Even the Upper Midwest hasn’t offered any respite. According to a July 6 report in Minnesota, high temperatures buckled the pavement on a road near I-35 in Little Canada.

But it certainly isn’t just roads that succumb to the high temps. Extremely high temperatures can lead to heat-stressed equipment, unsafe work conditions, lower productivity, serious illness and injury.

Working in the heat

When the temperature you are working in hits 90 degrees, the National Aeronautic Space Administration has discovered that accuracy of your work decreases by 300 percent. When the thermometer hits 95 degrees, your work output, or productivity, drops by 45 percent.

Various tasks associated with your job driving can put you at risk in extreme temperatures. You can drink lots of water, dress for it, try to

stay in the shade, but there are times – like unloading the trailer in Atlanta – you just can’t cool off.

According to the Department of Labor, if the body cannot cool down or dispose of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. Body temperature can rise to 105 degrees if working outside in a heat wave. As the body continues to store heat, the individual begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting, and death is possible if the person is not removed from the heat stress.

Death usually occurs when body temperature reaches 107.6.

Heat alert? What you may not know

Stay hydrated. You’ve heard it every time the temp goes beyond 90 degrees. You know it means to drink plenty of water because when it’s hot you lose fluids. What you may not know is that if you don’t replace it, your body no longer has enough fluid to (here’s the critical part) get blood to your brain, your muscles, and your organs.

How much water (the best choice)? OSHA recommends four cups of water every hour when the heat index is 103 or 115 degrees F.

Can you overdo the water? Surprise. Yes you can. While proper hydration after exercise is important, taking in excessive amounts of water is extremely dangerous. Drinking too much may lead to a condition called “water intoxication.” The out-of-balance electrolytes cause sodium levels in the blood to drop too low.

When overhydration affects brain cells, headache, confusion, convulsions, coma – and death, although rare – may result. A notorious example is the 28-year-old California woman who drank nearly 2 gallons of water in a three-hour period during a radio contest. She later collapsed and died from water intoxication.

Sources: National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautic Space Administration, Center for Disease Control, National Weather Service, WebMD, Associated Press, Mayo Clinic, OSHA, Department of Labor, and John McElligott, M.D.,Occupational Health Systems of Knoxville, Tenn.