Extreme Heat Puts Strain On Oklahoma’s Outdoor Workers

Thursday, July 29th 2021, 6:11 pm
By: Meredith McCown

TULSA, Oklahoma -

As the sweltering heat continues in Oklahoma, some people can't escape it because of their jobs. Workers who must be outside are taking extra precautions to cool down.

Kevin Gilliam starts his day bright and early at 5:30 a.m.

"Sun comes up around 6:25 a.m., so I like to be started already by then," Gilliam said.

He's a retired firefighter and said he mows lawns to stay busy. But lately, he has tried to get a head start.

"It tends to get hot, you know, it's summer. Seems like it's coming a little late," Gilliam said.

Gilliam said he doesn't take many breaks, but he stays hydrated.

"Around noon, I try to get out of the heat," Gilliam said.

If he doesn't finish the job, he said he'll keep working in the evening when the sun is going down.

"Meteorologists have us scared now this week. The heat index is supposed to be 110, so you know, I'm trying to get in and get out as early as possible," Gilliam said.

Some construction workers are starting earlier too, but Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesperson Kenna Mitchell said that's only because materials like concrete depend on the weather.

She said crews are taking extra steps to stay safe.

"They might have some different hats that are some cooling hats or wraps around their neck to help when they are out in the heat," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said workers are encouraged to take frequent water breaks and to cool down with the AC in the trucks. She said even in the extreme heat, this week's projects are all on schedule.

"The heat can certainly be pretty brutal. But crews know to look out for each other and know what the signs of some of the heat-sickness symptoms are," Mitchell said.

The precautions these workers are taking can apply to anyone. EMSA said to prevent heat-related illness, make sure you drink lots of water and take breaks in the shade.