WILKES-BARRE — To cope with extreme heat, Darren Ford, foreman with Popple Construction of Laflin, said he allows his crew working on sidewalk installation near Public Square extra breaks, and he has plenty of ice water on hand.
“This has been the toughest week this summer,” he said Wednesday. “Temperatures have been in the 90s for several days in a row. But so far, we haven’t had any problems dealing with the heat.”
Ford’s thinking is in line with what the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says to remember during hot weather: water, rest, shade.
“Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat, and some even die. These illnesses and deaths are preventable,” OSHA said in a news release.
Heat is the top weather-related killer in the U.S., resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year, OSHA says. Its statistics show excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.
According to the agency’s website, www.osha.gov, heat disorders generally have to do with a reduction or collapse of the body’s ability to shed heat by circulatory changes and sweating, or a chemical imbalance caused by too much sweating.
Mark Stelmack, area director at OSHA’s Wilkes-Barre office in the Stegmaier Building, said he hasn’t received any calls of concern, despite the prolonged 90-plus degree temperatures.
“We will get some complaints about air-conditioning not working in buildings,” he said. “But this is a nationwide issue. We’re getting the word out that when the heat turns up, we want employers and employees to know how to deal with it and how to prevent heat illnesses.”
Other hot weather developments include:
• Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township’s emergency room has seen five or six heat-related cases in the last week to 10 days, said Dr. Ronald Strony, director of emergency medicine. Two of those individuals — elderly patients who overexerted themselves in the heat — were admitted to the hospital, he said. Some medications, said Strony, can make the elderly more susceptible to heat illnesses.
• James McGuire, of Commonwealth Health System, said the staff has been seeing an increase in emergency room visits for dehydration, overheating and respiratory problems. Those at greatest risk include infants and children up to age 4, those 65 and older, people who are overweight and those who are ill or on certain medications, he said.
• Wilkes-Barre’s splash pad at Coal Street Park has been inoperable for months, but officials say a new pump was being installed Wednesday. The water should be flowing today.
• Trula Hollywood, executive director at the Area Agency on Aging, said hours could be extended at the centers if people need a place to escape the heat. “We haven’t extended hours this week, since it looks like the weather will break over the weekend,” she said. “If someone contacts the center and says they need a cool spot to be in the evening, we will absolutely staff the center and accommodate the person.” Seniors may call the Area Agency on Aging at 822-1158.