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UDOT: Communication Is Key To Keeping Workers Safe During Heat Wave

SALT LAKE CITY — Road building can be a hot and sweaty job any day of the year. When the temperature climbs like it did Monday, that work can be dangerous, so Utah Department of Transportation workers said they were keeping an eye on each other.

“We make sure that people know that we’re looking out for one another,” said Mackenzie Smith, UDOT resident engineer.

UDOT crews are working on Bangerter Highway this summer, turning three intersections into freeway-style interchanges. Smith said more than 250 people are on the job just about every day.

When the heat soars, the resident engineer said communication with the workers and among the workers is critical.

“Our main message is to keep an eye out on one another,” she said. “We want to make sure that everyone goes home the way that they came into work.”

It starts in their team safety meeting at the beginning of the day, making sure everyone understands they need to take extra breaks, drink more water and know how to recognize when somebody may be experiencing heat exhaustion.

Supervisors also watch them closely.

“They keep an eye on the guys and make sure they’re not getting mopey or starting to lose their energy,” said Carter Heath, structure manager.

“Communication is key,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason. “We want to make sure that our workers are communicating with each other, with their supervisors — just letting them know if they are experiencing signs of heat exhaustion or dehydration. We want to know that so we can address it right away.”

It’s a tough job for tough workers, but safety comes before egos.

“We want to let them know that there isn’t any shame in letting their coworkers or supervisors know that if they’re experiencing these symptoms,” said Gleason.

At 11 a.m. Monday, the temperature was already close to 90 degrees.

“It’s definitely hotter this week. You can feel it,” said Heather. “Working on this asphalt, the black asphalt, really brings out the heat and everything.”

When the workers pour hot asphalt, they said it feels even hotter.

“That material is coming out here at almost 300-degrees Fahrenheit, so we have to make sure that we’re taking those precautions because not only do you have sun, but you’re also working with materials that are very hot,” said Smith.

Supervisors also stagger shifts when they can, so the workers will start around four or five in the morning — that way they’re not working in the worst heat of the afternoon.

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