Workers deal with heat to get job done

Monday, August 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Larry Dentis was on the job Monday morning flagging cars on a street construction crew before the summer sun
brought the outdoor workplace to a proverbial boil.

Starting the day outside makes it easier to adjust to temperatures heating swiftly toward 100 in the afternoon, Dentis said.

"You've just got to pace yourself," he said.

Outdoor workers in Oklahoma are braving summertime temperatures up to 107 this week as the dog days of summer set in. Despite the
heat, the state medical examiner reports no heat-related deaths.

Hospitals report no major increases in heat-related illnesses so far.

St. John's Medical Center in Tulsa had 20 reports of heat exhaustion since May, said hospital spokeswoman Tina Wells. The
number is about average, she said.

"It hasn't been bad so far and we've been fortunate," said Damon Gardenhire, a spokesman for Integris Baptist Medical Center
in Oklahoma City.

Dentis and his co-workers for W.N. Couch Inc. in Tulsa were busy cutting up streets for drainage pipes, filling in their excavations
and packing down hot asphalt in the August sun.

Foreman Al Graham said he's trained to help workers avoid overexposure while dealing with the pressures of a hectic work schedule.

"If a guy goes over to get a drink of water, you can't holler at him," Graham said. "You need your liquids."

The American Red Cross is warning residents to take precautionary steps such as drinking more water, wearing light-colored clothes, avoiding strenuous activity when possible
and working during cooler hours of the day.
(See the following story.)

The eight employees for Capps Roofing in Ada start work by 6 a.m. to get in a day of work before the heat reaches it's afternoon peak, said Margie Capps, the company secretary.

"If it's really too hot, they sometimes work at night" with the help of lamps, she said.

Roofers also use sunscreen to deflect heat and protect against sunburn, she said. None of the company's employees have gotten ill from the heat so far this summer, Capps said.

Painters at Bennett's Drywall and Painting in Ponca City wear white clothes, which helps, said Anita Bennett, whose husband, Mike, owns the company.

"If it gets real bad, they'll work only half a day and move to an inside job," she said.

A couple of workers at Drumright Well Service have been sent home this summer because of overexposure to the heat, said company
foreman Howard Mahan. But it's been worse.

"We had lots of them go down last summer," he said. The summer of 1998 was even worse, Mahan said.

Drumright Well Service has 15 workers who do maintenance work on oil and gas wells.

Mahan said he keeps plenty of water and Gatorade on hand for parched employees and urges workers to get some fluid and shade if
the heat starts getting to them.

"In the wintertime, a guy can go somewhere and warm up," Mahan said. "When a guy gets too hot he can hardly cool off."