Staying Safe During Hot Summer Days by Brooke Inzerella
We know what’s in store for the south each summer: unrelenting heat and humidity! I can’t control the weather, but I do have a few tricks to mitigate the effects of extreme heat.
Early on in my career, I noticed that plants and shrubs waiting to be planted at the job site would begin to show signs of stress within a very short window during times of extreme heat. To help fight the heat stress we purchased a few inexpensive, portable beach tents for each crew. Now, it’s a non-negotiable for the crew to pop a few tents when they arrive onsite, and all greenery must stay under the tents until they are planted.
- We all know it’s imperative to thoroughly water newly planted shrubs and flowers, and we normally do this when we’ve completed the job. But when we have extreme heat and humidity, we implement an “Every 15” rule. Instead of watering everything when the job is complete, the team stops to thoroughly water after placing ever 15th plant. We also do a thorough final watering before leaving the job site.
- We always have plenty of water and sports drinks in our vehicles. During extremely hot days though, we ensure there is plenty of Florida water and rags. Each individual has their own set up, and I constantly remind my team to hydrate and take more small breaks than usual to cool the body down. We add lighter shirts in the summer with wicking fabric into our uniform mix, and even discuss symptoms of heat stroke. My team leaders know I take this subject very seriously.
- Speaking of more breaks than usual, I account for this in my labor estimate for summer jobs. The team will operate a little less efficiently during these months, and although I can’t always tell clients exactly when every project will be ready, it’s still top of mind.
- The bottomline: Have patience! The type of work we do is very labor intensive – it’s hard work even on cool, breezy, 70 degree days with no humidity. Battling the heat and humidity makes it a lot harder, and will likely be less efficient and productive overall. I know that our productivity will improve once the heat begins to subside in late September. As an owner and leader, it’s my responsibility to continually communicate that the health and safety of our employees is the most important thing.
Brooke Inzerella is a licensed landscape horticulturist and owner of Horticare Landscape Company in Lafayette, Louisiana.