Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hot: A matter of perspective

Two years ago, in the fall, I was with a customer being shown around our plant. I pointed out the different equipment in our lab, and we moved over to the inspection area. Both of those areas are air conditioned. Next, we went out onto the floor to look at some parts.

The warmer, more humid air really hits you walking out of the conditioned space, and the customer commented on how hard it must be to work in the heat. I heartily agreed: just a couple of weeks before, our area had had temperatures over 100ºF. When it's a hundred degrees outside, it's about 130º by the furnaces, and the operators have to work in that all day long. They often find excuses to come into the lab area, and no one can blame them.

It wasn't until later that I realized the customer had meant he couldn't imagine working in the heat that day. It couldn't have been even ninety inside the shop.

I'm not familiar with all the mechanisms that acclimate us to heat; one I've come across is heat shock protein. The author of Better Off writes that he and his wife found medical texts stating that it takes two weeks for a human to completely adjust to functioning in extreme temperatures.

Regardless of mechanism, I find it amazing how much worse heat feels when you're not used to it. Last week, we had this summer's first day with an outside temperature over ninety. Even the veteran workers at my company were obviously struggling to keep going. This week, they're heartily complaining about the heat, but it's no longer slowing them down. Just a few days of being hot during business hours really changes one's perspective.

1 comment:

Jennifer F. said...

There are people who work in 130F heat??? I didn't know that was possible! That is a TOUGH job.

My dad lived in Abu Dhabi a few years ago and he said that it was much less populated during the summers, when temperatures would regularly reach 120F. It was even too much for the locals.