Heat An Occupational Hazard For Some Workers

Share |
(Modesto, CA)
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's high noon at a construction site in Modesto. A lunch wagon weaves its way through stacks of building materials, machinery and pickup trucks. It's greeted eagerly by dozens of laborers.

With the temperature above ninety, and under a sweltering sun, the workers hone in on a tub on the side of the truck filled with ice-chilled beverages. As his fist fills with dollars, owner-operator, Sergio Lopez, hawks name brand drinks that hold the promise of thirst relief.

"Gatoraide, Cokes and Pepsi, everything."

For construction workers in the Central Valley 100 degree temperatures are an occupational hazard. Heat exhaustion or stroke is a possibility. But you won't hear veteran forklift operator John Goldberg whining. He simply passes on tips to newcomers for coping with the heat.

"They need to keep cool. You know if they get too hot take a break go inside the house. When I drive around I drink a lot of water and if I get too hot my water gets warm before I drink it all I just pour it on me to cool myself off."

While farm and construction workers are commonly known to be susceptible to high temperatures, for firefighters, heat is almost always part of the business. The summer months just make the job more challenging.

Craig Stone is fine tuning the engine of the fire truck he operates at station eleven in northeast Stanislaus County.  When they go out on a call, Stone and his colleagues are covered from head to foot in heavy protective gear. As he points to the truck, Stone says the firefighter who sits next to the engine in the middle of the cab is literally on the hot seat. 

"He's got the heat of the day. The heat of his body and the heat of the engine back there. So by the time he's to the fire, he's pretty warm. And then he's got to look at going into a fire that's anywhere from one thousand to eighteen hundred degrees."

Stanislaus County Deputy Fire Chief James Weigand says on extremely hot days, reinforcements are often dispatched.

"Where we might be able to take care of an incident with one or two engine companies worth of people, we have to be consider the need to bring in additional crews just to relieve those folks so they can get their body core temperatures back down."

So while the rest of us complain about the scorching heat after walking from our air conditioned cars to the office, these workers are breaking a sweat every day and dealing with it