The first sweltering days of summer are here in the Northeast, and I can’t help but think what it’s like for workers on the ramp. Extreme heat and humidity causes fatigue and delays reaction time.
Many of us on the safety side of aviation have long considered fatigue to be a major factor in incidents and accidents. It could well be a significant factor or at least a contributing factor in the high incidence of ground damage at airports around the country.
Extreme changes in temperature appear to affect workers more than consistently high temperatures, probably because people adapt in countries like India – where temperatures this past May during my travels there were more than 110 degrees for days at a time.
So it’s important for workers, supervisors and managers to be aware of the impact of hot, humid days on themselves and their workers. The importance of proper hydration is often spoken and written about – and just as often ignored. Managers and supervisors have to ensure that watering stations are readily available and that workers are frequently reminded of the importance of drinking plenty of water. Soda and coffee are not adequate substitutes.
Frequent breaks are also important on extremely hot and humid days. It’s better to have workers on a few more breaks throughout the day than to deal with the cost of damage and injuries caused by heat-induced fatigue.