Road workers have it tougher than most in sweltering heat

Bill Grady
July 17, 2019 - 7:24 am

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It's bad enough to be outside in extreme heat, but what if you're working with 400 degree asphalt?

Road construction crews have to put safety measures in place to be safe when the heat is in the upper 90s. Combined with humidity, the heat index in the Kansas City area will be well above 100 degrees for the next few days.

Even when it’s scorching outside, pavement still has to be repaired. With hot asphalt, once the pouring starts, it has to be finished. 

"It's not a job you can stop in the middle of," said Cathy Wilson, Overland Park street maintenance supervisor. "We just prepare the employees, and we keep an eye on them to make sure they're not getting overheated."

Crews employ the buddy system, watching out for on another, and making sure there is plenty of drinking water to go around. When someone starts to feel sick, they head for an air-conditioned maintenance vehicle.

Work is starting earlier in the day during the current heat wave. While most people can dress lighter in the summer, asphalt workers don't get to wear shots, tanktops and flip-flops. They need more protective clothing, which can add to the discomfort.

There's one other thing to consider; to get the asphalt to 400 degrees, the equipment has to be even hotter, so whether an employee is working next to the machinery or doing the actual pouring, it is still a risky job. The temperature a few feet from the machinery is much higher than the official outdoor reading.

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