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ADOT workers deal with summer heat by getting water, rest and shade

Highway crews rely on training and experience to stay safe in extreme heat
May 30, 2014

PHOENIX – Now that the hotter weather is upon us, the Arizona Department of Transportation and its outdoor workers are putting their preparations to survive the summer heat into practice.

ADOT’s highway crews take extra precautions during the summer months. Soaring temperatures are potentially dangerous for maintenance and construction workers. Typically, temperatures on asphalt or concrete are 15-20 degrees higher than the air temperature.

ADOT trains its employees to know that exposure to summer heat can be life threatening if not treated properly. Highway workers are taught to monitor themselves and their co-workers for signs of heat-related incidents and to use common sense when working out in the hot sun.

Heat safety training is vital for ADOT’s Safety and Risk Management Office. Workers who work in or are exposed to high temperatures complete heat stress awareness training, and first aid and CPR classes. Employees learn to identify the signs and symptoms of heat injury, and to observe proper work practices. This includes drinking enough fluids, taking adequate breaks and knowing first aid procedures for treating heat illnesses.

“It’s essential that our workers make every effort to prevent a heat-related illness,” said ADOT Administrative Services Division Director Sonya Herrera. “ADOT uses a variety of tools and techniques through heat awareness training, which gives workers the knowledge to prevent and address heat-related stress.”

In addition to training, ADOT uses various strategies to mitigate the effects of the heat:

  • Projects are usually started earlier in the day before the hottest hours in the afternoon.
  • Summer standards include switching some paving to nighttime shifts once daytime temperatures reach 100 degrees.
  • Retrofitting highways with one-inch overlays of temperature-sensitive rubberized asphalt is typically avoided during the hottest months of the year.
  • Employees who have not been working in hot environments are recommended to have at least a 7- to 10-day acclimatization period during which they need to take extra time to rest and replenish liquids.
  • ADOT employees in the field are provided with cool drinking water. They also have access to sun protection gear, including hard hat sun shades; light-colored, long-sleeved safety shirts; and sunscreen.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation,  has a “Water-Rest-Shade” public awareness campaign which talks about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather. For more information about this campaign, please visit osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.