Hot jobs: How outside workers are handling the Austin heat

A construction safety supervisor hands out bottled water to workers on site.
A construction safety supervisor hands out bottled water to workers on site. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With these searing temperatures, many of us are lucky enough to be comfortable in an air-conditioned office. But for some other workers, they have no choice — their office is in the elements.

Nationally, in 2014 2,630 workers suffered from heat illnesses and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job.

Damian Alvarez is no stranger to the heat. Working in the construction field for several years means he knows what to expect come summer time and the importance of hydration and taking breaks.

“With all the equipment we have to wear, it gets hot,” he said.

Alvarez is the Environmental Health and Safety manager for Jordan Foster Construction in Austin. Currently his crews have several projects going on around the city. He keeps his eye on the forecast, especially with triple digits predicted for the next week straight.

Alvarez says every morning starts with a meeting with the works on how to identify the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Then he will periodically check on the crew throughout the day to make sure they are getting a lot of water and taking breaks under the shaded tent.

“One of the things we like to tell all our workers is take care of your partner. Take care of you brother, or sister working next to you and we say look at yourself but keep an eye on everybody else around you because they might not notice it. Our industry..we get hurt we just keep going so we might feel it but we don’t want to stop so we teach our guys to look out for one another,” Alvarez said.

The company provides a canopy for shade as well as a cooler filled with ice and water. (KXAN Photo)
The company provides a canopy for shade as well as a cooler filled with ice and water. (KXAN Photo)

The company provides each site a shade tent and cooler full of water for every employee.

“It’s one of things a lot of people don’t think about it oh well you’re inside equipment, you’re on equipment, you’re not really working with your body but the heat off the engine is coming right at you and that can also affect you,” Alvarez said.

Construction employees not have another tool during the sizzling summer — an app created by OSHA specifically for outdoor workers. It’s called the heat index app and can tell you what temperature it feels like outside and what precautions to take.

Earlier this year, the Texas Senate was considering a bill that would require companies to give construction crews breaks to keep them healthy. Senate Bill 473 called for 15-minute rest breaks for every four hours of work. It never made it out of committee and was never voted on.

 

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