▶️ Bend outdoor workers struggle to keep cool on hottest day of the year


Dirt clouds wafted into the air on the side of Wilson Ave. in Bend on Tuesday. 

Landscaping crews could be seen shoveling and raking under the sun, even as temperatures reached a high of 98. That’s a record for this year. 

Mario Benitez, a foreman with Green Thumb Industries, said the heat is nothing he hasn’t seen before. 

“I lived in Mexico for 21 years and the temperature over there is 105, 110 every day,” he said. “This is perfect for me.”

In conditions like this, Benitez said he keeps cool by enjoying the shade of trees and “drinking lots and lots of water.”

It got even hotter in places like Prineville, at 99 degrees, and Madras, at 100 degrees. 

When the heat index passes 90 degrees, OSHA permanent heat rules put in place on June 15 of this year state that employers must monitor outdoor workers for signs of heat illness, provide a minimum 10-minute break every two hours, and provide 32 oz. of cold drinking water per hour.

Rules are followed at Philly Style food cart in Bend, but that didn’t mean work was easy on Tuesday. 

“We freeze towels and wrap them around our heads and they melt as we work,” said manager Garrett McMahon. “We’ve got fans, but since we’re in a truck we can’t really fit air conditioning, so we just kind of deal with it until it gets colder at night.”

He said the toughest part about working in the heat was manning the grill, which they use to cook their cheesesteaks and vegetables. 

“The grill is like 300 degrees and it’s like 100 degrees outside, so it just starts to build up, it’s rough,” McMahon said. “I’ve been in here when it’s like 120 degrees, 125, it gets pretty hot.” 

Conditions weren’t as bad in the food truck on Tuesday as they were last summer, when Philly Style and others had to close for a couple of hours each day during the major heat wave. 

On days like Tuesday, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke can become concerns for outdoor workers. 

Emergency Physician Dr. Nathan Ansbaugh said folks often get heat stroke and heat exhaustion confused. 

“Heat stroke is usually someone is minimally conscious if not completely unconscious, with temperatures above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, super super sick,” he said. “Those people 100% need to come to the emergency department. Most of the time we can prevent that even if someone’s starting to experience heat exhaustion, which is nausea and vomiting and feeling overheated and sweating, but not having significant altered mentation.”

He recommended that people who work outside all day in high heats fill up on both water and electrolytes by drinking watered down Gatorade or apple juice. 

“It’s more common than people realize, and probably people don’t seek medical care for symptoms of heat-related illness as often as the heat-related illness is occurring,” Ansbaugh added. 

Workers who spoke with Central Oregon Daily News on Tuesday said they do take regular breaks, and they’re trying to put a positive spin on a sticky situation. 

“I don’t mind, it makes me laugh,” McMahon said. “It’s like well, it could be worse.”

Benitez said he’s actually loved the weather recently. 

“That’s why I live in Central Oregon,” he said. “I love this weather. Heat, cold, that’s perfect for me.”


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