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How Arizona's construction workers stay safe from summer heat, monsoon storms

Construction workers and other outdoor-related careers are at risk of succumbing to heat-related illnesses, according to the CDC.

PHOENIX — Arizona's harsh summers can make it nearly unbearable for certain professionals to work outside during the season. Construction is one of those sectors in high demand in our state, even as the stress of heat hits workers hard. 

Construction workers are at risk of developing heat stroke, dehydration, exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That makes heat safety protocols even more important. 

The CDC reported that 285 construction workers died from heat-related causes between 1992 and 2016.

In Arizona, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were at least six heat-related deaths in 2020, for people working across all industries. 

Ryan Companies, which did the construction work for Goodyear City Hall, said they use an array of technology to stay ahead of the desert's dangerous heat. 

There are cooling areas for employees to take breaks. An OSHA App is used to track the daily heat index and gives hydration instructions for workers. And there are plans in place if workers start to feel sick from the heat, said Ricky Erhardt, senior superintendent at the Goodyear City Hall project. 

“Just the other day we had a guy out front who was slumped over, meaning that we take him into the building, get him into a cool place, hydrate him, call his company, have him escorted to the clinic to be checked out at that point to make sure he’s good to go," Erhardt said. "Sometimes they hook him up to an IV bag, bring him back, but it happens a lot out here.”

Erhardt added their hours shift earlier in summer too and they wear long sleeves to protect from sun exposure. Teams are constantly preaching to drink water day and night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Monsoon storms can also create problems for construction crews. Ryan Companies said it uses technology and weather tracking apps to not only protect employees from heat, but also from strong wind and lightning. 

If lightning is within 10 miles of the site, Ryan Companies said they stop working. The site is usually shut down for the day and workers don't return until the next.

If winds crank up past 15 miles per hour, the cranes are stopped because of safety hazards and are used again when the wind slows down. 

RELATED: Heat-related death in Phoenix raises concern over training of city employees

RELATED: Zap! Thousands of lightning flashes hit Arizona during monsoon storm. Here's a map of where they hit

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