Workers, experts agree on tools to battle heat

Area construction workers are some tough hombres.

While others are bemoaning the heat and humidity, carpenters, masons and dry wall installers laugh at the 90-plus temperatures and get the job done.

Well … they don’t really laugh, but they use common sense to get through the day and look forward to the end of the shift and their swimming pools, couches and air conditioning.

Dave Delaney, a carpenter sub-contracting for Britt Construction at the fire station on Prince William Parkway, said he acclimates to weather conditions throughout the year, but pays attention to heat dangers during the summer.

Delaney, 39, said he tries to stay sheltered on really hot days.

“Luckily for me today, I haven’t had to work in the sun, but even in the shade, you’re drenched in sweat in 10 or 15 minutes,” he said.

Delaney and his co-worker, Chris Catron, 37, take regular breaks to cool down, drink plenty of water and watch each other’s backs.

“We’ve been keeping tabs on each other. The worst thing in the world is to get heat stroke,” Delaney said.

Warning signs of dehydration and impending heat exhaustion or heat stroke include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramping and vomiting.

Wayne Ashburn, a foreman for Dave’s Construction, said he starts his crews early so they can work in the coolest part of the day. He, too, makes sure they get plenty of water and take breaks.

“Some of the drywall guys start at 5:30 in the morning,” said Ashburn, who is working on the commercial condominium project at the corner of Prince William Parkway and Old Bridge Road.

“I also try to get them to start at the top floors in the morning and work their way down to the bottom floors where it’s cooler,” Ashburn said.

In a recent Virginia Department of Health press release, State Health Commissioner Dr. Robert B. Stroube suggested additional precautions.

Stroube said high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating quickly and keeps the body from releasing heat quickly.

Alcohol and drug use, dehydration, fever, sunburn, age, obesity and heart disease also inhibit the body’s ability to cool itself, Stroube said.

People should pay attention to their body’s signals and take appropriate actions to avoid injury.

“If you find yourself working in a hot environment, start out slowly,” Stroube said in the release. “If you find your heart pounding and you’re gasping for breath or you become lightheaded or weak, you should stop the activity immediately. Get to a cool or shady spot to rest.”

Stroube says people should try to remain indoors in air conditioning, if possible. If air conditioning is unavailable at home, Stroube suggests that people visit their local libraries or indoor malls.

Two hours a day in air conditioning will greatly reduce the chance of heat-related illnesses, Stroube said.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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