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Three Jobs That Must Endure Stifling Summer Heat

As the calendar shifts to summer and the mercury begins to rise, not everyone has the luxury of working in an air-conditioned building.

For those that make their living working outdoors, they have to put themselves at the mercy of Mother Nature, especially when it comes to hot weather.

According to an article published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, outdoor workers are susceptible to two forms of heat stress. One form is internal metabolic body heat generated by exertion, while another is the environmental heat arising from working conditions.

The organization also cites a 2011 U.S. Department of Labor report that indicates that two of every 1,000 workers are at risk for heat stress.

Yet in spite of the heat dangers, some workers have no choice but to prepare each and every day to work long, tiring hours in the often extreme summer heat.

Here are three professions that must find ways to beat the heat during the summer months.

Beekeepers

Charlie Vorisek, president of the Pennsylvania State Beekeeper Association, said when working out in the field wearing all of his protective clothing, it can be stifling at times.

"Sometimes you start sweating just thinking about it," he said.

Vorisek works with around 150 to 200 hives and puts the number of bees at around 5 million.

While working with bees, a beekeeper's protective garb entails a white jacket, leather or plastic gloves, a veil that covers the face and long pants or full-size coveralls. Vorisek added that there are jackets being made which allow for better ventilation.

Vorisek is self-employed and maintains his operation, Vorisek's Backyard Bee Farm, in Linesville, Pennsylvania, which is located in the northwestern portion of the state.

Commercial beekeepers continuously monitor and manage each hive to maintain health and peak populations. Vorisek said hives can be set out for honey production or rented to fruit and vegetable growers pollination services.

He added the honey can be sold for retail at various markets and festivals or wholesaled to stores and honey packers.

During July and August, normal highs are in the 80s with humidity making it feel even hotter.

Vorisek said there's not much he can do to combat the heat, other than drink lots of water during the day because that's his primary precaution.

"There's no avoiding getting hot and [sweating], so we've got to keep hydrated," he said.

Vorisek said he can work outside from 8:30 a.m. until after 8 p.m. as long as the sun is shining. He said they don't really work in shifts, because it's dependent on how much good weather you have to work with.

After more than 20 years working with bees, Vorisek said you just try to get used to the conditions. Those just breaking into the industry may not have to spend as much time outdoors as veterans, such as Vorisek, because they may not work with as many colonies.

"It's just part of the job," he said.

Boilermakers

Boilermakers are craftsmen tasked with building and maintaining boilers and refineries that produce electricity for cities and communities around the country as part of the petro chemical and power industry.

Sometimes they are called in to work at a boiler room when there is an emergency outage, which can happen for a variety of reasons. Typically, in the summer, there's a high demand for electricity and when the boilers are run so hard, the attached tubes can spring a leak, causing the boiler to lose pressure, so that's when the boilermakers are called in do the repair work.

Jack Borzell, a business agent with Boilermakers Union Local 13, a Philadelphia construction local, worked in the field for 34 years.

He said temperatures in the boiler rooms can reach anywhere from 115-135 F during the summer. The temperatures are so hot because the boilers haven't had a chance to cool down.

"It's unbearable a lot of times, it's that hot," Borzell said.

Borzell said emergency outages typically require 12-hour shifts, or at a minimum 10-hour shifts.

For safety precautions, boilermakers wear long pants, long sleeves, leather gloves-one lightweight, one heavier glove for stick welding-as well as a welding mask. With so many sparks flying around, it's a necessity.

When working in tight areas, sometimes they can wear a soft shield, which entails a welding mask with a strap that they can wear with a bandana, but often they have to wear a hard hat with the mask attached.

Indoors, Borzell said one can get away with wearing short-sleeve shirts, but they must wear also a fire-retardant welding jacket made out of a lighter material.

Not every situation is an emergency outage, however. Repair outages are previously scheduled shutdowns of the power plants for maintenance and the conditions are not nearly as hot.

"It's just ambient temperature, like it is inside or outside," Borzell said. "Within a few degrees, It might be cooler in the boiler room because of all the steel tubing in there. If it was 80 outside, it might be 70 degrees inside, but then the protective equipment you wear makes up for that."

While five-gallon buckets of water are readily available, Borzell said another way to manage the heat is putting cool packs inside their hard hats, which helps provide relief and keeps their head cool. Borzell said they are more practical when working outside but can be effective indoors as well.

"You soak it in water and it activates and it keeps you cool, because you do sweat an awful lot," he said.

Farriers

Deep in the heart of Texas, Frank Schweighart spends his workdays outdoors shoeing horses. Schweighart is a farrier, someone who specializes in equine hoof care by forming and placing shoes on their hooves.

Schweighart, who has been shoeing horses for the past 40 years, including the last 17 in Texas, is the president of the Texas Professional Farriers Association.

Located about an hour east of Dallas near the town Sulphur Springs, Schweighart travels to his customers. In some situations, he may be able to work inside a barn where fans are running, but often times, his clients don't have barns and he's out working in the sun, with only the shade of a nearby tree to keep him cool if there happens to be one nearby.

"A lot of times you're just out there in the middle of that heat," he said.

He said temperatures can routinely be above 100 F with high humidity.

"It gets incredibly hot down here," he said. "You step out of the truck, you just start moving and you're instantly drenched in sweat."

On top of the weather heat, he works closely with a hot forge, which is used to heat and shape the metals for the horseshoes. Unlike boilermakers or beekeepers, he doesn't have to wear a lot of protective clothing. He keeps it simple with jeans, a short-sleeve shirt and boots.

Like all other jobs in hot working conditions, staying hydrated is key. Schweighart said he prefers drinking Propel water because it provides more nutrients as opposed to regular water.

The amount of time he spends outdoors is dependent on his workload. Some days he can work more than 12 hours, but other days he can be done much earlier.

Schweighart previously worked in Wyoming, and while he said it would get hot, there would be cooler periods in the evenings and mornings, which are not as common in Texas.

"It was a heck of a climactic change moving to Texas from up there," he said.