Severe heat affects outdoor workers

Saturday, June 10th 2006, 12:53 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Landscapers, roofers, construction crews and others who work outdoors drank more fluids and took frequent breaks on Friday as 100-degree temperatures spread across the state.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures for the next several days are expected to reach the upper 90s and low 100s, levels that could be dangerous to the health of anyone with prolonged exposure to the heat.

Woody Brumley, owner of Neighborhood Lawn and Landscape, said he and his employees take extra precautions when working out in the heat.

``We'll try to wear the right colored clothing and stay cool by drinking plenty of water,'' Brumley said. ``We keep an eye on each other to make sure everyone appears OK. We take breaks when we can and need to.''

Brumley and his crew are doing exactly what they should, according to the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

H.R. Holman, a spokesman for the department, said the elderly and those who work outdoors are particularly vulnerable in extremely hot conditions.

``Most victims of heat stress are the elderly _ they should be more aware than anyone else,'' Holman said. ``Heat stress is the burden that hot weather places on your body, especially the heart. If the burden is too great, heat can cause you to be very sick or even kill you.''

Tim Sanders, co-owner of Sanders Bros. Construction, said he and his six employees usually work eight to 12 hour days, and the weather greatly affects when and how long they can work.

``If you've got a roof to do, you can't do it in 100-degree weather,'' Sanders said. ``You have to schedule a job that you can go back and forth between the inside and outside.''

Sanders and his work crew do roofing jobs, home-building, vinyl siding and other construction. When they aren't building houses and don't have the opportunity to step inside from sun, Sanders said his employees find alternative sources of cooling down.

``We always have a lot of water,'' Sanders said. ``You have to take a lot more breaks, and sometimes you have to find you a shade tree close by.''

Brumley and Sanders can expect the high temperatures to stick around, at least for the next week.

Weather service meteorologist Chris Sohl said Oklahomans can expect the unseasonable triple-digit temperatures to continue into next week.

``Usually, we tend to see this later in the season,'' Sohl said. ``It's not terribly unusual that we have 100-degree temperatures, but it is a little early.''

Sohl said with 100-degree temperatures, people need to take extra steps to ensure their own safety and the safety of family members.

``Avoid being outdoors in the middle of the day. Keep those activities for the morning or evening hours and stay in the air conditioning if possible,'' Sohl said. ``Have plenty of water available, especially if you are outside _ stay hydrated.''

Sohl said another important aspect to remember is to frequently check on elderly family members and friends.

People should watch for warning signs relating to heat stress, such as feelings of being uncomfortable, lack of energy or a slight loss of appetite.

The more serious signs of heat stress are dizziness, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, nausea, throbbing headache, dry skin with no sweating, chest pain, significant weakness, mental changes, breathing problems, vomiting and cramps.

Sohl said the state may see a break late next week from the rising temperatures, but the threat will increase for fire danger.

``As we continue with the dry weather and high temperatures, we'll see fire concerns start to rise again,'' Sohl said. ``People need to be cautious as we go through the summer. And if we don't get much rain that risk will be rising.''