Construction companies make adjustments to keep workers safe in high heat

TEAM COVERAGE: Impacts of rising temperatures

TEAM COVERAGE: Impacts of rising temperatures

Construction crews in the Twin Cities are making modifications to their work this week in the face of extreme heat.

The heat index, which refers to the “feels like” temperature outside, is expected to be around 100 degrees Wednesday and Thursday.

An excessive heat warning has been issued.

“The workers’ safety is our number one priority,” said Darin Henson, assistant field coordinator with Ryan Companies.

One of the projects Ryan Companies is working on is a multi-story affordable housing complex in St. Paul, slated to be finished in spring 2024.

Henson said he checks the heat index every hour on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration app to help guide decisions surrounding weather at the job site.

Due to the high temperatures Wednesday, some of the contractors working in direct sun left after lunch.

Workers who remained on site Wednesday worked in shaded lower levels or near fans.

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They also have an air-conditioned trailer nearby for anyone who feels overheated.

Henson said if the heat gets too extreme, they can call off work for part or all of the day.

“We build ‘weather days’ into our schedule. We account for some of those weather days and if we have to unfortunately use one of them, then we’ve got to use one of them,” Henson said.

Barrier Construction, based in Crystal, had a small crew removing stucco from a home in Minneapolis Wednesday.

Workers took extra precautions, including starting and finishing the work day earlier than usual.

“It feels like Florida, and we’re a little north to feel like that,” said Dallas Smith, a carpenter with Barrier Construction. “I’m praying for it to cool off but we’ll get through it. I mean, we work in Minnesota. We’re going to freeze and we’re going to sweat. That’s just part of the job.”

Project managers told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that crews are instructed to take frequent breaks in the shade. They also provide water and sports drinks.

“You start sweating and it gets real sticky out here,” said Chris Starr, another carpenter with Barrier Construction. “I’ve definitely been loading up on the fluids.”

Adam Niedzielski added, “I hate the sweating part about it but just the working outside is nice and it not being snowy on the ground makes it a lot better.”

KSTP health expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou urges anyone doing physical labor outside to watch for signs of heatstroke, such as headache, dizziness or a fast pulse.

“The onset of a heatstroke or any heat-related illness can happen within minutes,” Georgiou said. “The very old, very young, pregnant women and people on certain medications are most at risk. But frankly, we are all at risk when it gets this hot.”

She recommends having sports drinks with electrolytes on hand and utilizing the buddy system when outside in excessive heat so someone else can spot strange symptoms or behavior and call for help if needed.