by Lori Riddle

Back-to-school commercials are running every three minutes, and in some parts of the country, that may mean sweater and jacket weather is around the corner. For many parts of the US, however, back to school means some of the hottest weather we get all year. Here in South Carolina, August and early September are truly the "dog days," when it's so hot the dog gets as flat as possible in any available cool spot. Like on top of an A/C vent.

It's Not Over Yet

At the begining of the summer season, there's always a lot of talk about heat safety and heat illiness; OSHA launches an annual awareness campaign and safety talks on jobsites and in meetings address heat related illness and the dangers of working in hot conditions. But the danger doesn't end when the kids go back to school and summer's over. For the next month or two, our crews and many others will face dangerously hot working conditions.

Inside A Welded Steel Oven

Inside a welded steel tank under constructionConstructing a storage tank involves working inside and outside of a carbon or stainless steel shell that is built from the bottom up. Curved steel plates are moved into place one at a time to form a ring, and rings are added until the shell has reached the appropriate height - 20', 40', 60' or much higher. The tank roof can be built in place on the tank, or it can be built on the ground and moved into place on top of the tank. Either way, tank construction crews end up working inside the unfinished tank as it's going up, and as the height of the tank shell rises, so does the temperature inside. Once the roof is in place, it can get even hotter inside the tank. Crews performing tank repair work are often working inside an enclosed tank, where temperatures can soar.

It's The Humidity That Gets You

Let's say it's 95 degrees outside. That's pretty typical anywhere in the south, including the Gulf region, in August. Let's say the humidity is about 80%. Again, pretty normal. Under those conditions, the heat index, or how it feels, would be 130 degrees. That's HOT. Now, take those same conditions and put yourself inside a gigantic welded steel can. With a welded steel lid. And you're wearing protective gear. THAT is really, really hot. 

We're All At Risk

In the tank construction business, heat illness is a major safety concern. But it's also something that can affect anyone, any time. Anyone working outside or in a shop environment is especially susceptible to heat related illness. Kids, too - especially kids who will be practicing for fall sports in conditions that don't feel like fall at all. Older adults are often at risk, too.

So, whether you're working in the heat welding a storage tank, working in your yard, watching (or coaching) an August football practice, or looking out for an elderly neighbor, don't let your awareness of heat illness slip away with the final days of summer. Heat illness is still a threat there's still plenty of time for scorching hot days and potentially deadly working conditions.

Take this opportunity to be sure you are prepared for the remainder of this summer, and dog days of late August and early September. Check out this Heat Index Calculator for a look at your temps and approximate heat index. And if you want to monitor the heat index, check out OSHA's Heat Index App.

To remind you of the dangers of heat related illness, the signs that you or someone else may be in trouble, and for information about prevention, we've collected a few websites here that may be helpful:

Heat Illness Info for Work and Home

How to Prevent Heat Illness

How to Respond to Heat Illness

Heat Illness Info for Kids

Heat Illness Info for Older Adult Family & Friends


heat safety Storage Tank Construction

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