ODOT workers preparing for near-record heat

Published: Jul. 15, 2019 at 4:25 PM EDT
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The doldrums of summer are a constant battle between going outside and knowing when to go inside... or, between grilling burgers and not grilling your own skin. With all the dust and hot asphalt construction workers have to deal with, this week's heat wave will add an unwelcome factor into the daily grind.

"One person may be able to withstand more than the other," says Matt Harvey, transportation manager at ODOT's Northwood Outpost. "All we do is encourage them to take more frequent breaks and take more liquids to protect themselves. The worker is the most important part."

For their part, ODOT doesn't send their workers out without a bit of extra safety measures. Each hard hat has a removable sunshade to keep the sun off one's neck, with a terrycloth lining the headband to keep sweat out of the eyes.

A few extra items give further protection from the sunlight, and the hardiest plants that crave it. Small packages of sunscreen are distributed to keep workers's skin from turning a shade "warmer" than those signature construction cones. As for poison ivy and poison oak, "they thrive in this weather," according to Harvey, "so we've got some stuff you can put on for pre-contact, and then if you forget to put it on in the morning and get into poison ivy, we've got stuff to put on your skin after."

It's not just the people that suffer in these higher temperatures. The roads and projects themselves are susceptible to damage.

"Heat makes everything expand -- roads expand, bridges expand, everything expands -- so we're always out there monitoring to make sure the roads are doing good and we don't have any catastrophic problems."

Needless to say, people get a bit more cranky during heat waves, and Harvey has this advice for drivers dealing with work zones.

"Take it slow, take it easy. Remember we all have a job to do, and we all have to work together out there... just be conscious of what you're doing and keep an eye out for everybody."