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Construction Workers Hit Hard By Week-Long Heat Wave

Brett Blume
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KMOX/Brett Blume

KMOX/Brett Blume

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -  This record-setting heat makes every aspect of one’s daily routine that much more difficult — especially for those working to rebuild our infrastructure.

Construction workers have a job that requires them to be outside during the hottest part of the day.

Manager Craig Votrian with the Cement Masons and Plasterers’ office in Troy, Illinois says federal rules kick in whenever it gets this hot.

“You’ve got to learn to pace yourself in this kind of heat,” Votrian explains. “You must stay hydrated.”

If workers aren’t looked out for, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can be called in to investigate.

Votrian says inevitably the heat is taking its toll on area construction projects.

“There are some jobs that are electing to work just half a day instead of a full day,” he says. “There’s other jobs that are starting early to beat the heat.”

But especially in this economy, construction companies are not about to turn down work just because the mercury is camped out in triple-digit territory.

“You still wanna work. If we took off when it was hot and took off when it was cold, we’d never work,” Votrian points out.

And it’s not just the stress on the workers themselves, but the raw materials that construction crews are working with on a daily basis.

Tim Garvey, CEO of the Southern Illinois Builders’ Association, says a prime example involves the laying of cement or concrete.

“A cement mason has to really work that trowel and work that concrete so it comes out with the smooth, perfect finish that everybody wants and is used to seeing,” Garvey tells KMOX News.

But the intense heat makes even that chore more difficult than normal.

“That heat is working on the concrete, and there’s a term in the industry…the concrete ‘blows up’,” he says. “When that happens you lose the product. It’s just gone.”

And that means going back to square one, something no construction crew wants to face.

To counteract this, workers might mix ice, chemicals, or even nitrogen into the concrete mix to artificially lower the temperature and give themselves a little extra time before the concrete “blows up”.

But it’s not ideal, according to Craig Votrian with the Cement Masons.

“It’s extra time and extra money, and they’ll try and do anything they can to avoid that,” he says. “But if you’ve got a job that has a set completion date and you have to get it done, then you have to do something to get it done.”

Meaning that in this record-setting heat wave, construction crews are sweating it out in more ways than one.

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