June 19th, 2024

It’ll be ‘lazy, hazy, crazy’ hot

By Gillian Slade on July 6, 2018.

With a week of temperatures forecasted to be in the 30s, construction workers are particularly vulnerable.Ê
Environment Canada's expected highs are for the shade. Construction workers in the sun are experiencing temperatures at least six to eight degrees higher.--NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE


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A high of 34 C forecasted for Friday is the temperature in the shade but a lot hotter in the sun, says Environment Canada.

“You go out in that sunshine and you can add another 6, 7, or 8 degrees, so it will feel more like 44 C or 45 C,” said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada. “These temperatures are ramping up to be almost a dozen degrees warmer than normal.”

If you are working on a roof it is five to 10 degrees hotter than it is on the ground, said Barrett Anderson, manager Plato’s Superior Roofing Ltd.

Roofing crews try to start work earlier in the day if that time works for the particular work site, said Anderson. Coping with the heat still comes down to wearing appropriate, breathable clothing with your skin covered. Hats are crucial and plenty of hydration is needed.

“You take breaks when you need to,” said Anderson, noting the work is not for everyone. Those who have been doing it for a long time appear to build up a higher tolerance to heat.

Environment Canada’s models for July and August indicate a dryer and warmer than normal summer, said Phillips.

“These are very much part of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer,” said Phillips.

Crews with MJB Enterprises Ltd. start work as early as 5:30 a.m when it gets this hot, and often stop for the day around 2 or 3 p.m., said construction manager Gordon Gukert. Lots of cold water and ensuring crews on the ground take enough breaks are key. Unless you are accustomed to working outside, one or two days of high temperatures might be as much as you could handle.

“You’d be pretty well played out by that time,” said Gukert. “We try to do the rougher jobs early in the morning when it is cooler.”

Even if you are not working in the sun, you are vulnerable, says Alberta Health Services.

When it comes to heat health, there are three specific hazards — UV radiation, dehydration, and the added impact of humidity, said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, south zone medical officer of health with AHS. Protection from UV radiation includes applying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Reapply frequently, after sweating and swimming. Limit your exposure to the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“Wear eye protection when you’re outside because your retina needs to be protected,” said Suttorp.

In the short term you want to prevent sunburn but in the long term, UV radiation causes skin cancer, premature aging and other chronic conditions, she explained.

Dehydration is a significant factor in heat. Hydrate frequently and stay away from caffeine and alcohol beverages. Infants and younger children may not be asking for something to drink but you should give them something anyway, said Suttorp.

Humidity is one of the most important factors in how the body is affected by heat. Suttorp says 70 per cent of heat stress is humidity, 20 per cent is radiation and 10 per cent actually from the temperature.

The first signs of heat injury is heat exhaustion, with symptoms that include headache and nausea. It can rapidly progress to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency, said Suttorp. Seek medical attention promptly. Remove outer clothing and shoes. Use a wet towel to cool the body until medical care is provided.

Apart from the withering effect of sustained heat, there is also the lack of precipitation that will affect moisture in the soil.

“When you get these roasting kind of temperatures … they’re going to suck every bead of moisture out of the ground,” said Phillips.

There would normally be about 114 mm of rain in May, June and the first week of July. This year, in that time frame, there has been 60 mm.

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