BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
It might not be the Dog Days of Summer, but this week’s temperatures are some of the hottest so far this summer.
No place is it tougher to find shade during the hot days is on the roof of the Vermilion County Courthouse, where workers for Century Roofing put the final touches Wednesday on the new roofing project for the five-story structure.
Daniel Strawser is Century Roofing’s senior foreman for the project. Standing over the Danville downtown area on Wednesday, he said workers pay careful attention to their bodies when the temperatures start to rise.
“Any signs of cramping up, we always send guys down the truck, maybe send them home if they’re bad,” he said. “We’ll give them a couple days off afterwards to make sure they’re completely safe before coming back to work.”
Standing well above any trees, shade is difficult to come by for the roofing crew, so Strawser said he makes sure guys get at least three breaks a day in addition to their lunch hour. A bright yellow cooler nearby holds gallons of cold water for the workers.
The onset of hot temperatures this week is in stark contrast to last year’s drought-plagued summer that saw temperatures hit this week’s same heat level by the end of May. Nineteen of the 31 days in July 2012, in fact, surpassed the 92 degree mark measured locally on Tuesday.
The up tick in heat, according to the National Weather Service, is expected to only get worse as the week progresses with forecasts by Friday calling for high temperatures in the mid 90s. The heat index is expected to make the hot temperatures feel like between 103 and 105 degrees by Friday.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has several tips regarding being outside during hot weather, including slowing down and avoid strenuous activity. People also should drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Regular breaks are also stressed in shady or cool areas.
While most roofing jobs are associated with 100-plus degree temperatures as a result of the black roofing materials, the project atop the county courthouse is an obvious departure.
“Black rubber is unbearable,” Strawser said, adding he’s regularly seen it melt shoes because of the heat.
The roof is covered with a white material that provides an energy-efficient status for the old roof. Aaron Nuetzmann, director of marketing at Century Roofing, said the white material cuts on-the-job temperatures down from 180-200 degrees normally to just a few degrees over the outside temperature.
“Rather than being on a roof that is 180 degrees or 200 degrees? It’s a huge difference,” he said.
Precautions still have to be taken, however, as 96-degree working conditions can still take their toll on employees. Nuetzmann said the company takes a strong emphasis on safety from the moment workers are hired.
“One of those things is dealing with how to understand your body, understand the work conditions of the roof and the environment you’re in too make sure you’re staying hydrated and to make sure if there are any signs of anything that you’re rested or escorted off the roof,” he said.
Drought conditions last year forced workers to come in earlier than usual for some projects and leaving earlier, before hot afternoon temperatures set in, Nuetzmann said.
Heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to the heat with symptoms including headache, red, dry face, loss of consciousness and seizures.
Heat exhaustion occurs indoors or outdoors and with or without exercise. Symptoms include dizziness, cool, clammy skin, heavy perspiration and nausea.