Heat Exhaustion A Growing Threat For Utility Workers

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DALLAS (CBS11) – It doesn’t matter if the weather makes it feel like 10 or 110 degrees, utility workers still have a job to do and comfort takes a backseat to safety.

When you have to wear heavy-duty rubber armor on top of two layers of fire resistant clothing, you learn to take the threat of heat exhaustion seriously.

Before the workers can even get into position to start their work, there’s a detailed checklist.

“Starting from the ground, we’ve got steel-toe boots, fire retardant pants. I have two shirts on. They are both fire retardant as well,” Oncor technician Eddie Lopez said.

That’s just the beginning for Lopez, who still has to don the rubber sleeve and gloves to protect himself from up to 17,000 volts of electricity. But the more layers he adds, the more risk he takes from the punishing afternoon sun.

“Start sweating, hands start becoming a little bit more slippery, start getting thirsty, and it’s just hot overall,” Lopez said.

Oncor urges workers to drink five ounces of fluid every 20 minutes, to avoid caffeine and to watch for specific signs of heat-related illness.

“Sweat is good. The second you stop sweating, you’re dehydrated. You also want to make sure you don’t get dry mouth, poor skin elasticity is another good indication of dehydration,” Oncor spokesperson Kris Spears said.

The company encourages everyone who has to be out in the heat to be just as mindful as its workers about protecting themselves from all the dangers they face.

“You just keep on working until the body starts telling you that it’s time to come down, take a break,” Lopez said.

Oncor tells us its workers have safety meetings on at least a weekly basis, and this time of year heat is a priority. They also have a separate safety briefing before each job.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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