Even rising temperatures can’t put off a construction deadline.
Wednesday topped out at 94 degrees, the fourth straight day of temperatures above 90, a serious problem for outdoor workers. From road construction to tree removal, workers spending as much as 12 hours on the job have to find ways to beat the heat.
Topping that list is drinking fluids. Art Darling of Dolgeville said that while working with his crew on the reconstruction of Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, they constantly stay hydrated.
“Water’s great, but we need to replace lost electrolytes. You don’t realize how much you lose during the day, and when you stop sweating, that’s when you know there’s a problem,” he said.
While they occasionally take refuge in Lyle’s Hoagies, the crew spends most of the day in the sun. The air conditioning in their excavator is broken, so Darling says they improvise when it comes to keeping cool.
“Sometimes we’ll wet a rag and wrap it around the back of our necks, under our hardhats,” he said. “That keeps us cool, but the heat’s not going to go away.”
Darling’s co-worker, Ed Darrow of Cold Brook, said the crew usually wears light-colored pants and loose, button-up shirts.
“This is the best we can do to keep it light, unless they start letting us wear skirts,” Darrow joked.
While the pace of work may be slowed by the heat, Jason Keator said working smart is the best way to deal with the extreme conditions.
“When we start to get hot, we take a break and try to stay in the shade as much as possible,” he said.
For some, company mandates restrict workers to a tougher dress code.
Workers on the Western Gateway Bridge between Scotia and Schenectady said their jeans, work boots and company T-shirts are required, but Kevin Evans of Berlin said it’s just part of the job.
“It’s a 12-hour day, so we have to take breaks in the shade. The guys working on the bridge usually go underneath, where it’s cooler. We’ll turn the [air conditioning] on in the trucks and take breaks in there when it gets bad,” Evans said.