High temperatures slow work, trigger special precautions for outdoor laborers

High temperatures are making tough jobs harder for people working outdoors in Kern County, and recently high humidity and poor air quality aren’t helping, according to Bakersfield.com

Probably the biggest impact the ongoing heat wave has had locally is shortened work hours for some crews. The workday starts and ends earlier, which can lower productivity and reduce paycheck totals.

“The guys don’t necessarily want to go home” when temperatures rise to the upper 90 degrees, said pistachio orchard professional Josh Newfield, owner of Newfield Ag Management. “A lot of time they do want the hours. They want the work.”

OILFIELD HEAT

A similar situation faces oilfield workers who have recently been placed on reduced schedules because of the heat, Bakersfield oilman Chad Hathaway said. In his case, the reduced availability of electrical power during the heat wave presents an additional problem.

“It’s causing a lot of us havoc and forcing a lot of us to shut down and start up and putting everyone at risk of an accident that is out of our control,” Hathaway said by email Monday.

Construction being another activity sensitive to high temperatures, contractors working on the Centennial Corridor transportation project have requested and received the city of Bakersfield’s permission to work late at night in order to avoid the worst of the heat.

The good news is that these scheduling adjustments haven’t slowed work on the corridor, city Project Manager Luis Topete said.

Recent humidity has complicated matters — California Farmworker Foundation Executive Director Hernan Hernandez called it “suffocating at times.” But high moisture content in the hot air does not trigger special workplace precautions the way high temperatures do.

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