Before Portland, OR, carrier technician Steven Lusk sets off into the record-breaking heat of his adopted hometown, he goes through his daily checklist to make sure he has what he needs for work:
Sunscreen? Check. Polarized sunglasses? Check. Water? Check. Hat, breathable shirt, leather shoes? Check, check, check.
The Southern California native says he is accustomed to “triple-digit weather” but there was nothing in his experience to compare with the recent once-in-a-millennium heat dome that smothered the Pacific Northwest.
He has been taking triple the amount of water along with him than usual.
For him, hydrating is “the most important part” of the workday when the weather turns hot, he said.
For lunch and breaks, he finds locations that allow him to cool down. Because he has a string of five different routes, these spots can vary from convenience stores to coffee shops to the residents’ lounge at a mobile home park.
“They let me hang out. No questions asked,” he said.
To help employees like Lusk, the Postal Service provides heat safety guidance throughout the year, but especially during the summer months. Among the efforts are stand-up talks, lanyard cards, workplace posters, vehicle stickers and tips on Blue.
Workers are urged to get creative, too. Last year, safety engagement leaders in the Pacific Area held a “hydration station challenge,” urging Post Offices to come up with ideas to make the refreshment stations more attractive. There’s one going on this year, as well.
One break for Lusk — besides lucking out by being off on a day that hit 116 degrees — is that two of his five routes are mounted, which he prefers when it’s hot.
“It’s definitely easier on the body,” he said. “Even if I’m sitting and sweating a storm, for me, it’s easier. At the end of the day my body feels more energized.”
He spoke with Link one mid-morning in early July when the temperature was 75 and “perfect.”
The weather will be similarly mild this week, but temperatures in the mid-90s are expected to return by mid-August.
His advice to other carriers for this sizzler of a summer? “Take a break when you need it. It’s not the time to push.”