We’re fortunate to live in what some people call the Sunbelt, but we call it the Cotton Belt. The winters are normally (last year excepted) mild, and spring and fall are usually beautiful. The summers… well they’re SUMMER. Hot and humid. Did I mention it was HOT!?
This is also the time when a LOT of work is done on gins to get them ready for the coming year. After a long gin season like some places had – either because of a big crop or just strung out harvest – it’s not uncommon to take a couple months off and evaluate what broke and what needs repair. Then, during the summer, we get the stuff together and start repairing. Did I mention it was HOT? In my own experience, working in the top of the gin in July or August is a recipe for disaster.
While gins rarely lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke type of illnesses, it’s no secret that we can have bad accidents in the off-season just like in gin season. The difference is that during this time of year, accidents are usually trips and falls and few due to power and machinery related injuries. Some have wondered how many of these falls may have had a heat-related component. When a person is overheated, it’s easy to become disoriented or lose your balance. Judgment can also be impaired when someone is overheated.
Since most gins have roofs and large bay doors with a good breeze, it’s fairly easy to avoid the extremes of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day can go a long way. Where heat can be a big factor is working in the top of the gin. Always do this as early in the day as possible. If you plan to do a lot of hot work, start at 6:30 a.m. and knock off by 3:30 p.m. Drink a lot of water. Keep an eye on each other. Work high in the gin early and move down to the concrete by the hottest part of the day. Take plenty of breaks. These seem like they’re silly common sense tips, but they can be tips that may save your life or that of one of your friends. Be careful when working in the heat.
Dusty Findley of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners’ Association contributed this article. Contact him at (706) 344-1212 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.