Construction workers continue paving under blistering heat

Heat waves come off freshly-laid asphalt on the side of Interstate 474
Heat waves come off freshly-laid asphalt on the side of Interstate 474(WEEK)
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 3:59 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - From above, the sun beats down with a 90-plus degree heat with a triple digit heat index. From below, oven-hot asphalt radiates back up at the workers laying it down and smoothing it out.

Summertime construction is nothing new, every year the sunny conditions make ideal weather for major infrastructure repairs. The workers on the side of the road on Highway 474 have done this at least for a couple summers. The heat is typical, but the current dangerous conditions has taken its toll on them.

“A hundred degrees outside, plus the three hundred degrees you’re standing on,” paving operator Tyler Arzola said. “It’s like you’re cooking, like you’re a rotisserie chicken almost.”

“It’s like a hairdryer blowing on you constantly,” another worker, maintenance worker Matthew Savage said.

There are at least three unions of workers on each construction site. Laborers, operators and teamsters work together in the conditions to lay down asphalt, smooth it out and seal it.

Some of the workers who’ve paved before say there are certain rules to make sure you don’t overdo it and end up with a heat related illness.

Liking the heat helps, but the first and foremost rule? Hydrate.

The workers say they drink at least a gallon of water a day, and then have even more water when they get home. Gatorades and Pedialytes help restore some of the things sweated out under the summer sun.

“On hot days, it’s hard to stay hydrated,” Arzola said. “As soon as you drink a bottle of water, you’re sweating it out.”

Water and sunscreen can only do so much, they say it’s also important to pace yourself. The crews keep in constant communication and watch out for signs of exhaustion in their fellow workers. They say young workers tend to overdo it more often, so the veteran construction workers keep an eye out on the new employees.

“I think it’s the younger guys you have to watch out for, the young bulls,” Assistant Crew Manager Jay Able said. “They kind of get excited and think they can power through things and kinda get over themselves a little bit.”

“Don’t try to be Superman, just do the best you can with what you’ve got,” he continued.

Crews have been starting early in the morning and ending in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat. They’re out as early as 6 a.m., though the sun and heat can still be in full swing by that time.

Each crew member said they try to stay chipper in the heat. A sunny disposition can take away from the relentless beating of the sun. Staying positive can be difficult, though they often remember the end goal: their kids, their families and that nice, cool shower and air conditioning waiting at home.

“Sometimes you just gotta embrace it,” savage said. “Sometimes you have to remember that somebody’s going through something way worse than what you’re going through.”

“I try to remind myself of that,” he continued.

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