In case you were wondering…It’s hot outside.
Those of us lucky enough to grow up in our beloved Kansas climate are well educated in the ways of our harsh mid-summer temperatures. When forecasts warn of temperatures rising to a hundred degrees or more, many of us are grateful that our jobs are in an air-conditioned office. However, for many of our Facilities employees, functioning in triple digit temperatures is just part of the job as they work to keep our campus running smoothly. Here are a few things our dedicated colleagues do to beat the heat inside and out.
GROUNDS & LANDSCAPING
Many of us see a temperature reading of 100 degrees as a signal to save yard-work for another day. However, our Grounds & Landscaping team are not able to postpone much when there are over 2,300 acres of campus to care for. Jacki Toburen, who runs the day-to-day operations of our crew, works to ensure her team stays safe while getting the job done. Part of their crew arrives at 6 am to work on bigger projects in the cooler parts of the day but working in the hot sun is inevitable. Here are a few tips they use to make it through:
- Wear sunscreen and re-apply every two hours
- Wear a wide brimmed hat
- Wear clothing with a tight weave
- Wear sunglasses
- Stay hydrated, drink lots of fluids
- Take breaks in shaded areas
- Wear a dampened scarf around your neck
New landscapers (novice or professional) who have not been ‘conditioned’ to be in the sun for long periods are the most at-risk group for heat exhaustion. So be cautious! The professionals on our team are acclimated to working in extreme-weather conditions. For those of us who do not work in the heat every day, it is best to start out working in the sun for shorter periods and gradually increase work sessions over time.
STEAM & CHILLED WATER PLANTS
While our landscaping crew is visibly facing the heat in our front yards, we have another group working behind the scenes who also face heat-related risks in order to keep the rest of us cool.
Employees from the Steam Plant and Chilled Water Plants face risk of heat exhaustion daily. Several employees have uniform requirements (such as long sleeve shirts and pants made out of specific materials) that make it more difficult to stay cool during the summer months. They are also often working in enclosed spaces, such as underground tunnels, to keep things on campus working as they should. Several labs on campus are “climate-sensitive”, meaning that temperatures must remain constant to ensure precision of experiments and research. Our Power Plant team works to ensure these places stay at the temperatures they need to be while keeping the rest of us cool and comfortable. Because so much of our campus depends on the steam and chilled water plants to be working smoothly, our power plant crew can’t put off a crisis for a cooler day. Tim Brunner, Plant Manager, understands the importance of keeping all the moving parts functioning while enforcing strict policies to keep his power plant employees safe.
“When we are running tunnels and the weather is hot outside I like my guys to do 20 minutes in and 20 minutes out. I only allow tunnel work for 4 hours a day during the summer unless it is an emergency. If that happens, we set up fans and man it in 20-minute shifts to get the problem taken care of. Heat is one of the worst safety issues we deal with because not everyone takes heat the same. A lot of the time, you don’t know you are overheated until it’s too late.” -Tim Brunner, Plant Manager
Working in the heat is a necessary evil for several members of our Facilities family. It takes great commitment as well as caution to ensure Wildcat country has the physical conditions needed to move forward in our goals of providing excellent customer service and becoming a top 50 research university by the year 2025.
So, the next time you look out a window and see a member of our facilities team ‘emerge’ from a manhole or out in the scorching sun trimming a tree…take a deep breath of that cool air and make a note to tell them “thank-you” for everything they do!