Construction workers brave heat wave; health experts advise staying hydrated in hot weather

Extreme heat kills more Americans than any other kind of weather, according to the National Weather Service. Some communities in the La Crosse area have heat indices close to triple digits and that’s expected to continue through the week.

Health experts recommend staying inside when it gets this hot, but some people’s jobs are outside. One construction group is working on a project near UW-La Crosse.

Job superintendent Pete Steffen said his team has to be extra careful to make sure everyone stays safe in this weather.

“Construction is hard work,” Steffen said.

He said he has worked in construction for 35 years but it doesn’t get any easier when a heat wave moves in.

“It’s not good in any respect,” Steffen said.

Nevertheless, at the crack of dawn, the workers show up and work past it. They make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water.

“It’s a life-or-death situation in some circumstances,” Steffen said.

Heatstroke claims hundreds of lives every year.

“Most people don’t drink enough water at baseline. They start out the day usually dehydrated,” said Dr. Chris Smith, with Mayo Clinic Health System.

Steffen said the workers take care of each other.

“They stay hydrated,” he said. “We have a refrigerator full of water bottles and the guys take breaks when they need to.”

Last year, he said a worker suffered the effects of the heat.

“He was pale, and he quit sweating,” Steffen said. “He had all the symptoms of heat exhaustion.”

Thankfully, he was OK but it shows how fast things can go wrong. These workers are suffering through the heat so people will have a place to escape the heat.

When the project is done, it will be the new community pool. These same workers also worked this past winter during the polar vortex.

“We were out here forming concrete,” Steffen said. “We had plastic up to keep the wind off, but we did not miss an hour of work during that week when it was so cold.”

When something has to be built, it doesn’t build itself.

“This job has to get done,” Steffen said. “That’s what I have been told, so we are going to get it done.”

Health experts said people should drink about 2 liters or 8 glasses of water every day. People should drink more if they work outside or perform any strenuous activity.

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