City keeps workers cool in extreme heat

Saturday, August 14, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- With temperatures in the 90s and heat indexes well over 100, it's been a week to stay inside whenever possible.

But what about those who make their living outside? Between utilities, public works and parks, the city of Greencastle has a number of workers who can't just stay inside and avoid the heat.

Instead, department heads have found a number of ways to minimize the impact of the weather on workers.

"They're trying to limit their number of hours outside, and they're trying to bring them in periodically to give them breaks just to get them out of the heat completely," Mayor Sue Murray said.

A suggestion often made in high heat situations is to avoid activities in the hottest part of the day.

"We're trying to get all we can done in the morning hours. In afternoon hours, we're doing training. We're inside," street department supervisor Brad Phillips said. "Unless something comes up that we have to get to, if I can find a cooler job to do, that's what we strive to do.

"There's lots of little things we can do -- we can run roads for potholes and make our lists out," Phillips added. "We try to stay out of the heat. We have water and everything we keep here."

Of course, when the heat can't be avoided all together, it's always a good idea to hydrate.

"We just make sure they drink plenty of water and take more frequent breaks than what we would normally take," utility supervisor Richard Hedge said.

Dressing smarter has also been encouraged at the parks department.

"We actually told everybody, unless you're going to be weed eating this week, wear shorts," assistant parks director Troy Scott said.

Although their season has now all but wrapped up, the lifeguards at the Greencastle Aquatic Center couldn't just avoid the heat of the day. On the contrary, the hotter the weather gets, the more in demand their services are.

Instead, pool management has established a rotation to keep the guards as cool and rested as possible. When all else fails, the guards can also jump in the pool themselves.

"Most of our guards go swimming during their breaks anyway, so whenever they're not up on the chair, they're in the water," Emma Hazel said.

What managers across the city have kept in mind it to stay smart. While these people are providing essential functions to the people of Greencastle, it's not worth pushing anyone too hard.

"Just use common sense if you feel like the heat's getting to you. Naturally, we want them to put in a good day's work, but we also want them not to take any risks," Hedge said.

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