Some workers can’t escape heat

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

While “So you think you’re hot?” is a silly question when the heat index outside is 114, there were at least three sets of people on Tuesday who could testify to just exactly how hot it is outside.

The flagman

On and off for the last 12 years, Nicholas Ball has worked for R&B Construction.

That means he’s worked in the cold, rain and sun, but in Ball’s estimation, this is one of the hottest summers he’s ever seen.

Tuesday, he was among the 20-plus construction workers at the River Falls Street work site. There, crews were working to install new underground utilities. While some were on motor graders and inside work trucks, Ball spent the day waving a traffic flag and directing motorists around the worksite.

Sweat pooled across his forehead and ran down the sides of his face. He used a towel to keep the sun off his head and from burning his face. He chugs liquids like they’re going out of style to keep hydrated, he said.

“Believe it or not, I volunteered for this today,” Ball said of his work duty. “I normally lay pipe or set fire hydrants. Using a towel is just one of those things you do to keep cool.

“You just know it’s hot,” he said. “You can feel the heat coming up from the street.

“Most of the time, people don’t listen to what you say,” he said, indicating his use of the directional flag. “And that works to make you even hotter.”

Ball said he’s not been immune to a heat-related illness. He said last week, he almost “fell out. My legs about gave out and something came over me.” It took him nearly half an hour to recover.

“You got to stay hydrated out here. That’s for sure,” he said.

The lineman

The temperatures are so excessive that linemen at PowerSouth Energy Cooperative have altered their work schedules to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

“We have linemen coming in at 4 or 5 a.m. to try and beat the heat,” said PowerSouth safety manager Buddy Manring. “It’s up to each crew supervisor as to what schedule they take, but it is an option.”

This affects about 100 of PowerSouth’s employees, communication manager Mark Ingram said.

Ingram said PowerSouth crews aren’t limited to just linemen, and include relay, transmission and other outside positions.

Manring said with the extreme temperatures, they are encouraging crews to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses.

“We are encouraging them to take more frequent breaks and drink plenty of water and Gatorade,” he said.

As another measure of precaution, Manring said crews are trying not to do any work that requires linemen to climb poles because of the extreme temperatures.

“We are trying to reschedule any pole climbing work,” he said. “We are trying to do everything with equipment that can be done, unless it’s an emergency, until it cools down.”

The student athlete

On Monday, all football teams started their fall practice sessions, requiring them to spend hours playing in the mid-to-late afternoon heat.

At Andalusia High School, players are urged to keep hydrated whether they are thirsty or not, AHS head football coach Brian Seymore said.

“You’ve got to be real leery with the kids, and give them constant breaks — make sure they’re hydrated,” he said. “I think each individual position coach has to make sure their players are not getting dizzy or getting real fatigued.

“That’s a very serious issue, and I think it’s something all coaches are leery of,” he said. “It makes us nervous with kids dealing with heat, it’s a very serious issue.”

Seymore said he stresses to the individual position coaches to give their players breaks during drills, and make sure each has access to as much water as possible. In addition, the biggest break comes in the middle of practice.

“We’ve just got to keep watering these guys, keep them hydrated and tell them whether they’re thirsty or not, they need to be drinking some water,” he said. “It’s coming out as quickly as you’re putting it in your body. There really is no secret to it, you‘ve just got to stay hydrated.”