Tucson workers brave excessive heat to keep city running

Taking regular breaks, drinking plenty of water help crews stay safe in 110-degree weather

Construction workers working in the heat

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - With the temperatures pushing 110 degrees everyday, city of Tucson work crews who have no choice but to work outside, have to find ways to stay cool.

For the crews who fill potholes, a job which must be done, plenty of Gatorade, water and ice go a long way.

But just as important as the cool beverages, taking breaks is a must.

Three workers can fill up to 70 potholes in a day, a job which by and large, is voter mandated.

“Stay hydrated, take your breaks,” said John Sarmiento, who has been in the transportation department for 40 years. “Don’t push yourself too much.”

But even a native Tucsonan who says he’s acclimated to the heat, can make a mistake now and then.

“I had a heat stroke about two years ago,” he said. “Put me in the hospital for two days.”

Asked why, he says “I didn’t stay hydrated.”

Now, he advises others to make sure they don’t fall into the same trap.

“We watch out for each other,” he said. “If it looks like somebody’s in trouble, we help out.”

That’s a city policy in the summertime, especially in excessive heat.

“We make sure there’s two or thee people working together,” said Michael Graham, a spokesman for transportation. “It’s kind of a buddy system we have.”

Surveyors, gardeners, landscapers, or pot hole fixers must all work with another person.

“There will always be another employee working with them in this heat,” Graham says. “Nobody is on their own in case something happens to them and they need medical attention.”

The city also has its outside workers begin their shifts at 5 a.m. and end them at 1:30 p.m.

Frequent breaks are a must, but the workers are not timed, just told to take whatever you need.

Sarmiento says some workers need 10 minutes to cool down, others may need a bit longer.

“Whatever you need,” he said.

On Wednesday, with the temperatures once again nearing 110 degress, the city will pull its workers at 11 a.m. for training sessions.

“The health and safety of our workers always comes first but right now, it’s especially important,” Graham said.

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