Surviving the heat: Local workers endure potentially deadly temperatures on the job

Saturday, July 20, 2019
News 12 at 11 O'Clock

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Record-setting temperatures across the country are blamed for at least six deaths, although some people are working in even hotter temperatures every single day.

For Chris Thatcher, braving the heat is a daily challenge. He often steps out of his truck's air conditioning, grabs his gear and heads to the attic of people's homes.

"If we have to come up here and replace a system, say something like this," said Thatcher, the owner of Polar Mechanical Heating and Cooling. "It may take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours of being inside and outside."

He sees temperatures regularly above 130 degrees inside attics on air conditioning repair calls. It's too much time spent working in dangerous heat.

"You're sweating profusely," Thatcher said. "Sweats rolling in your eyes. You've got it all over your hands. Your hands are slippery. Your working with electricity."

On a call Saturday afternoon, he recorded temperatures in a customer's attic at 138 degrees.

In the United States, heat causes on average the most weather-related deaths each year, according to the National Weather Service.

Thatcher had a close call himself.

"I've had situations where my helper saved me. He said, 'you've got to go,'" Thatcher said.

"You could be fine one minute and the heat wave hits you, and then you lose your balance, or you lose your vision. It really does happen."

He says it's a danger for customers too. One fell through his roof because of the heat.

"That's what happened to him," he said. "He got up there and got dizzy. It's just not safe for customers to be up there especially in this heat."

Even something as simple as offering a bottle of water can be a big help to those working outside.

"You've just got to be patient, whether it be tree workers, yard guys, whether it be HVAC guys," Thatcher said. "Just be patient."

Thatcher says he uses tents, fans and gallons of water to stay cool each day.

Recently, he says he's had to postpone jobs to cooler hours of the day to stay safe.