The Herald Bulletin

July 17, 2013

Outdoor labor companies prepare for heat, scale back

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — You've heard it all by now. Warnings to stay inside during summer heat waves or, if you must be outside, take precautions to avoid heat stress and heatstroke.

But what if you make a living outside and you don't have a choice? With temperatures reaching the 90s and the heat index pushing triple digits on Wednesday, outside laborers likely felt like they were in an oven during prolonged work stretches. Some employers take every precaution to keep their workers aware of the danger.

Paving roads is a labor-intensive job in any weather, but mix high temperatures with laying asphalt that's over 300 degrees Fahrenheit and the conditions can be hazardous to workers. Mark Michael, safety manager for EV Paving, said he spent all of Wednesday driving to different work sites around the state to check on pavers and hand out bottles of Gatorade.

"A lot of our guys are veterans and have been doing this a long time. Those guys know what they're doing for the most part," Michael said. "You need to watch for some of the newer guys who might not know how to pace themselves."

EV operates out of 17 plants around the state and repairs roads all around Indiana, including Madison County. Wednesday, they had a crew working on the new roundabout in Pendleton during the day and on the I-69 interstate at night, paving with concrete and asphalt.

Asphalt can be laid any time of day, but requires considerable heating before laying, so crews will often put off those jobs until nighttime. Crews using concrete will try to start jobs as early as possible because as the heat rises, there's a danger the concrete will dry too quickly and become weakened.

And of course, jobs become more difficult as the day drags on and workers toil in the hot sun. It's Michael's job to make sure employees take safety precautions.

"One of the first things I said in an email this week is to be careful in the heat," Michael said. There are things they can do like wrap cold, wet bandannas around their necks. And of course, we have cold water at every site."

Not every company labors through the heat. Paving jobs are time-sensitive and it's easier to do the work when the weather is warm, but some outdoor jobs can be held off. John Slivka, a manager at Affordable Trees, said his company uses this time of year to scale back and let workers recharge. But there's still plenty of work to be done.

Affordable Trees in Anderson offers large-tree residential and commercial landscaping. According to Slivka, hot months like June, July and August are not good times to transplant because of moisture concerns. Even though this year has been relatively wet, trees become accustomed to a certain moisture level and could suffer or die if uprooted and not properly maintained. So the company likes to do maintenance during the summer and transplant during busier months in the fall or spring.

"By design, we back off business for the coming weeks, for both us and the trees, but we do a lot of maintenance during this time," Slivka said.

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