Recent hot weather makes for tough conditions at work

DALLAS -- As he watched his crew hustling on the roof of LaCreole Middle School at about noon on Thursday, July 8, Dave Hughey admitted to a twinge of guilt.

DALLAS -- As he watched his crew hustling on the roof of LaCreole Middle School at about noon on Thursday, July 8, Dave Hughey admitted to a twinge of guilt.

But just a twinge.

The temperature was already at 90 degrees, and the employees of Anderson Roofing, a contractor for a capital project for the Dallas School District, were at the mercy of the sun.

Clad in heavy jeans, long-sleeve shirts and even face masks, the group dutifully mopped scalding refined asphalt -- or "hot" -- over a plywood layer.

"I did what they're doing myself for 33 years ... it's time to let that younger crowd do it," said Hughey, job superintendent, with a laugh and more than a few beads of sweat rolling down his forehead.

"But it's miserable up there," he continued. "The area they're roofing is a good 50 degrees hotter than it is anywhere else."

Polk County and the Willamette Valley experienced its first real taste of a summer scorcher last week, with a four-day stretch of high temperatures vacillating between 90 and 100 degrees.

For those working outside on farms or construction sites, they're trying conditions. And maybe more so for individuals involved in arguably the worst hot-weather jobs -- roofers and pavers.

In the parking lot of Dallas High School, Jim Farmer of Salem Road and Driveway switched off the track hoe he was operating, exhaled deeply, and took a long swig from a water bottle.

He and others were breaking up old asphalt on the site to prepare it for a new layer he would be laying down with a paver sometime this week.

"I'm praying that (the weather) won't be like this," he said. "That stuff is 320 degrees when it comes through the paver.

"You're working over the top of it -- all day long," he added. "And there's no cab (on the paver), so you get the joys and pleasures of all of it."

Farmer, a 30-year veteran of asphalt work, said there are tricks to surviving the heat. Skin cream that's wet enough to cool the body in a breeze, wetting hats down and ample amounts of water.

Charlene Bradley, a dump truck driver whose vehicle's air conditioning wasn't working this afternoon, said some of the guys wear ice packs around their necks.

"I worry about the ground crew the most," she said. "We might be shaded, but they're right out in the elements."

As a roofer, Hughey said The Weather Channel runs in the office 24-7. Crews start early to quit early, though if the thermometer reaches 100 degrees, he'll send folks home.

His company usually hires extra hands during the heat in order to rotate them, instructs workers to get enough sleep and vitamins, and to watch out for signs of heat exhaustion in one another. Jugs of sports drinks and water are spread strategically throughout the job site.

"They go through water like camels and we supply them with as much as they can drink," Hughey said.

So who has it worse? That depends on who you ask.

"A roofer gets up on the roof and paints asphalt ahead of him and around him," Farmer said. "We're right over the top of it ... you can't get ahead of it and you're boiling."

Hughey contended roofers do backbreaking work during the mornings, and mop 500 degree "hot" during the afternoon.

"But really, anybody who's working outside right now has a hard job."


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