This article is just a few of the ways to stay safe and cool while working in the summer heat. We hope you enjoy reading about our experiences and learn from our mistakes.
Society doesn’t always look fondly on those of us who cut grass for a living. “Anyone can push a lawnmower,” they say. It’s not hard to quickly learn skills like pushing a lawnmower, driving a zero turn, or using a string trimmer. However, people don’t always consider that we often have to work in extreme environments. A homeowner can say, “I’ll just wait until the evening when it cools down.” Or, “It’s going to be cooler tomorrow. I can do it then.” We have to finish the day's route despite the heat and humidity. So what are the best ways to stay safe and cool as a lawn care operator? We’re sharing our best tips below.
When the pressure is on to stay on top of your schedule and not fall behind, it is tempting to go hard and fast no matter how hot it is outside. Our bodies just aren’t made for extreme heat, though. Story Time:
I once had a pallet of flagstones I needed to move from my trailer to a customer's backyard. The heat index that day was well over 100F. I prepped the yard, and I had a guy helping me that I asked to move the stones. I told him to move slow and drink as much Gatorade out of the cooler as he wanted. I didn’t see him for a few minutes, so I went up front to take a break with him. When I walked around to the front, I found him passed out, face down in the grass. I called 911 and moved him into the shade. When the paramedics came, they casually checked him out. They told me he would be fine after a few IV bags in the ER. They had already had multiple calls like this that day. My helper was pretty embarrassed but returned to work a few days later.
My point with this story is that the guy helping me was trying to “tough” it out but ended up setting the project back a day because he wasn’t taking care of himself. Getting a few extra lawns in isn’t worth a trip to the ER. After this experience I started watching the heat index a bit closer, especially on days when I was mowing solo.
Staying hydrated while mowing on hot days seems obvious, but many folks don’t increase their water intake when that heat index goes into the triple digits. Some sources suggest drinking 8oz of water every 15 min. I’ll do the math for you. That’s one gallon every 4 hours, but it's important to note that gulping large amounts down does not do as well to hydrate you as drinking smaller amounts every 15-20 minutes would.
Is just water enough, though? In the story above, the paramedics told me that my employee collapsed not just from the heat. His muscles were twitching, which was a classic sign of electrolyte deficiency. There was a half-drunk bottle of Gatorade in the truck, but it had been too little, too late.
To keep our muscles working correctly, we need electrolytes. Specifically, these are minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Sports drinks do have some minerals, but there might be better sources. Natural sources of electrolytes include bananas and coconut water. Also, look out for rehydration drinks and powders. These can have more than 10x the electrolytes that sports drinks have. Lastly, if you are starting to feel dehydrated, dizzy, and nauseous, head to a drug store and get some Pedialite. That stuff is packed with all the goodies you need to rehydrate.
I’ll start by saying that clothing choice is highly personal, so I advise you to try some of the options below and choose what works best for you.
Our last tip is to be intentional about cooling your core body temperature. There is no right way to do this other than to sit in the air conditioning all day. Since we can’t sit inside all day, we’ve got to devise creative ways to cool ourselves down. Here are a few things that have worked for me.
At Check, we always say that our number one mission is to champion the operators. We know how difficult of a job it is to cut grass all day long under a blazing sun, and we hope and pray that you all are staying safe out there. If you want to share your hacks and tips, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our conversation on the Check Lawn Care Operators Discord