On the job, cold days add a safety concern

Businesses here adapt to chill with warm gear, changed work hours
2013-01-16T00:00:00Z 2013-09-10T17:05:54Z On the job, cold days add a safety concernAngela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It's been cold.

Colder than most desert dwellers are used to.

But the show must go on, and it's business as usual, even for those whose work requires them to brave the elements.

Jacqui Harry, owner of Jay Bee's Auto Service, 5070 E. 22nd St., said that aside from an employee with a broken water line and one with a broken refrigerator, the company has had a full crew.

"We are all bundled up with several layers - long underwear, thick Levi's, vests, gloves and beanies to keep the heat in," Harry said.

She also swears by good socks to stay warm even while working on concrete floors. Harry has been known to buy socks from the tool trucks for her employees.

With the exception of a couple of weather-induced cancellations, business has remained steady.

Harry said extreme heat and extreme cold bring in more business to the auto shop, noting that cars are like people when it comes to the weather.

"You don't want to get up. Your car might not want to get up, either," Harry said.

The cold has the opposite affect on sales at Mesquite Valley Growers, 8005 E. Speedway.

"Obviously, it affects sales," sales adviser Jon Childers said. "People are not gardening. They're home trying to protect their plants."

Despite that, nursery employees still have to be there.

"We're always open," Childers said. "We have to take care of the plants."

"The secret is wearing a lot of clothes. That's all you can do."

Starting later in the morning helps the landscapers for La Cholla Landscaping handle low temperatures.

La Cholla owner Gabe Lobato said crews started about two hours later a couple days ago when it was "really bad." The rest of the week, they've started about an hour later than usual.

Lobato said he is in constant contact with his workers to make sure they're feeling OK.

"I want to make sure they're taking care of any symptoms they might have right away if they're not feeling well," he said.

Lobato said one thing his workers do to stay warm in the early hours is to wear dust masks. "It keeps the air they breath warm and moist."

Codie Norman, owner of Cool Kat Street Level Promotions, a sign-spinning company, said the key for him is dressing in removable layers and hydration.

Norman has been spinning in front of Hi End Tight Barbershop during this week's cold snap.

While he's spinning it gets hot, and he has to remove a layer, but once he stops, the sweat gets cold "really quickly" and he has to put the layer back on.

He said that even though it's so cold, hydration is important.

"It's a myth that you don't need to drink as much water when it's cold. It's just not true because we still sweat."

The end of the cold front is in sight, as weather forecasters predict temperatures will climb to the mid-60s by the weekend.

"I don't know how they do it in the Midwest every day," said Jacqui Harry.

DID YOU KNOW?

Employers are not subject to any specific workplace regulations on cold-weather working conditions, such as temperature limits.

But they have a general duty to assess any potentially hazardous conditions and protect employees, according to the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

For cold-weather work, that might mean solutions such as space heaters; administrative steps such as rotating crews more often; or supplying protective gear like insulated clothing for extended work in refrigerated workspaces, such as walk-in freezers, ADOSH Assistant Director Larry Gast said.

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at 573-4137 or apitteng@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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