BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – As the heatwave slams the West Coast, those who must work outside have to expose themselves to a dangerous work environment that could end in death.
Dressed in his work uniform decorated with a reflective vest, sun hat and dark sunglasses, Pablo Tapia is ready to brave triple-digit temperatures for several hours. Ensuring that the playgrounds at Beach Park and the more than 50 Bakersfield City Parks are in tip-top shape.
From manicuring the lawns to ensuring the sandboxes are clear of debris for children who enjoy the playgrounds, Tapia needs to keep his own safety in mind as the heatwave heads to town.
“Since I wake up, I begin to drink water,” Tapia said. “I try to avoid caffeine on days like these so I won’t get dehydrated.
Not far from the playground Tapia is tending to, Frank Rodriguez, a volunteer with the Bakersfield Shoe Crew, helps to refurbish horseshoe pits ahead of a statewide championship Saturday.
“I just stay well hydrated,” Rodriguez said. “We take our breaks so that we don’t overwork ourselves.”
Rodriguez started the day early, digging into the muddy pits so that the soil underneath can be smoothed out into a flat surface. It’s intense labor that must be repeated multiple times as they have dozens of pits to prepare before horseshoe enthusiast land in Bakersfield this holiday weekend.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two of the leading causes of injury or even death during heat waves. Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that between 1992 and 2017, 815 U.S. workers died due to heatstroke, and politicians are now pushing for federal protections for these workers.
U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced Tuesday, the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act to protect the safety and health of workers who are exposed to dangerous heat conditions in the workplace.
The bill is named in honor of Asunción Valdivia, a California farm worker who died in 2004 after picking grapes for ten hours straight in 105-degree temperatures. Mr. Valdivia fell unconscious and instead of calling an ambulance, his employer told Mr. Valdivia’s son to drive his father home.
If you are feeling faint or dizzy, and experiencing heavy sweating, nausea, vomiting, or muscle cramps, you might be suffering heat exhaustion. Get indoors where there is air conditioning, drink water, and use a cold compress.
Throbbing headaches, body temps upwards of 103, strong pulse or loss of consciousness signals towards heat stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately as this can turn deadly.
“We are staying hydrated,” Rodriguez said. “Drinking plenty of water and we got here early in the morning and we are pretty much finishing up for the day.”