Hot jobs: Battling excessive heat and the rise in heat waves

KOLD News 5-5:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 5:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - We’re seeing extreme heat across Arizona and much of the United States.

Experts say we may soon see heat waves lasting longer and happening more often.

People who work outside are out in extreme heat like all day. I caught up with some roofers, just one of the jobs impacted by a rise in extreme heat, and they told me what they do to prepare and stay safe.

“Right now this is an emergency situation. These people have open holes in their roofs so we’re trying to help them out as best as we can,” said Bill Kimbley, owner of Desert Sky Roofing.

The weather has a huge impact on him and his workers. They normally try to get out of the heat by noon. But after a monsoon storm rolled through Green Valley, they’ve had to work around the clock to repair people’s damaged homes.

“Almost every house had three or four skylights broken. Owners were telling me they have hail coming in the size of an inch coming into their home in the middle of the night,” he said.

They always keep an eye on the forecast and plan ahead, especially for the heat.

“At night, I tell them to hydrate before they go to bed. When you wake up, hydrate, have a mild breakfast – not something huge, to make sure you have a little energy, and hydrate on the way to work,” he said.

Working on the roof is also a lot hotter than other outdoor jobs. Kimbley says the roofs have a lot of reflectivity, so it’s like getting sunburnt all over. To protect themselves, the workers wear long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses. They’re already starting work at the crack of dawn to try and beat the heat, but climate experts say, extreme heat and heat waves are going to become more common.

“It’s one of the most certain projections that climate scientists have. Because we are trapping more heat in the atmosphere we will see temperatures rise in general and heat waves in particular,” said Kathy Jacobs, director of Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona.

The extreme highs and nighttime lows are higher than they have been in the past. The increase in heat waves will have a big impact on on everyone, but especially people who work outside or are experiencing homelessness.

“We do know that people will need to use more air conditioning, that people will need to be more careful working outside during the day, that they’ll need to drink more water, and that they need to understand the signs of heat stress and so forth,” she said.

She says this all leads back to climate change. There are several things you can do to limit you climate impact like driving less and using energy efficient lightbulbs. You can find more tips here.

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