Around this time of year, you’ll start hearing how “staying cool improves your productivity.” But is that just a common misconception or is there any real science to it? And if so, what is the most effective way to beat the heat?
There’s been a lot of research done about heat’s effect on the body. Turns out, heat really does slow you down. Our bodies naturally try to regulate our heat so that our internal temperatures stay at safe levels for us to survive. However, regulating heat takes resources from our body. For instance, our body uses our sweat to try and cool us down which takes energy and water. Besides the heat from the sun, our bodies also produce heat when we work (that’s why you sweat when you work out). The more work we do, the more heat we produce and the more resources our bodies have to use to cool us down. So when you feel slower on a hot day, that’s your body’s survival instincts saying, “slow down” (though try telling that to your boss!).
That’s right, our bodies instinctively release hormones to make us feel lazier when we’re hot. This slows us down to minimize the amount of heat regulating our bodies have to do. If you’re trying to work in the heat, you’re not just fighting the sun to stay productive, you’re fighting yourself.
So hotter temperatures often mean less productivity, that’s science. But you’ve got a job to do, heat or no heat. Fortunately, there are smart ways to keep your overall body temperature down which will increase your ability to be productive.
Find the Source of the Problem
The smartest first step is to actively think about the different ways you’re becoming overheated. Think about the equipment you use. Is it heavy, causing you to work harder? Does it trap heat? Think about the amount of work you’re doing and how much heat that’s causing your body to produce. This way, you can focus on reducing heat where it’ll have the largest impact.
For instance, if you’re doing a lot of consistent welding, your machine will produce heat. It’s most apparent in the torch handle since that’s your body’s main contact with the equipment. This can make it very uncomfortable for your hands and arms. However, if you’re not continuously welding, your equipment might have time to cool down between welds. In this type of situation, investing in a torch that can better regulate heat won’t help as much as some other changes you could make.
Reduce the Amount of Unnecessary Work
You’ve got a job to do. We get that. Sometimes this means just pushing through the heat. But one of the ways welders tend to overheat actually has nothing to do with welding. It’s often tasks like carrying cables, hauling your machine around and carrying materials. Heavy lifting causes your body to work a lot, which causes you to produce an excessive amount of heat.
When possible, try to reduce how much effort you have to exert. For example, spend a few more minutes trying to find a smaller (and therefore lighter) cable if possible. Use a cart to transport your machine and materials. If you’re taking a break from welding, remove your heavy protective equipment (just make sure you put it on again when it’s time to weld).
Don’t “Forget” Your Safety Gear
Safety gear is designed to protect your body. This also means it’s often thick and heavy. Sometimes welders will “forget” to put on their safety gear to avoid becoming overheated. However, a 3rd degree burn is a heck of a lot more uncomfortable than a heavy welding jacket.
This being said, just because your protective gear is heavier, doesn’t mean it’s any better at protecting you. It does mean it weighs more, so your body has to do more work to carry it. That produces more heat, which then gets trapped by your heavy gear. There’s a lot of high-quality, lightweight welding gear that’ll protect you just as well as that 50 pound Kevlar vest you’ve been wearing. You might as well check out what options are available to you here.
Ultimately, even with all these tips, you’re still having to deal with the biggest heat source of them all: the sun. Reducing heat from other sources will help productivity, but your body still has to regulate heat based on the simple fact that it’s hot outside.
What you need is a way to cool your body down without having to sweat. When your body doesn’t have to try and regulate heat, it won’t release hormones to try and slow you down.
An easy solution is the Coolbelt made by Miller. Essentially, the fan you wear around your waist sucks in air, cools it and then pumps it out around your head. Underneath your hood, it can lower temperatures up to 17 °F cooler. That’s the difference between a sweltering 90 °F to a comfortable 73 °F.
If you’re working in a group of welders together, you should check out Miller’s Supplied Air Respiratory system. It’s essentially a Coolbelt on steroids, capable of cooling incoming air up to 50°F colder. The SAR is built right into a Miller T94I-R helmet. You can get all the details on Miller’s SAR system here.