Turf installer for UA field dies from heat

Would be season’s 1st such death; OSHA opens inquiry

By: Brenda Bernet
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

— A 39-year-old man died Monday night after overheating while working for a contractor at the University of Arkansas, Washington County Coroner Roger Morris said Tuesday.

The man, who lived out of state, was working Sunday on the Fayetteville campus for a private contractor and began showing signs of heat stroke, Morris said. He died at 7 p.m. Monday at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville.

“It’s hot early,” Morris said. “We want people to be aware that it’s going to be hot.”

Warning signs of heat-related illness include gettinglight-headed and not sweating, he said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the death, said Elizabeth Todd, a Dallas-based spokesman for the federal agency.

The Arkansas Department of Health has no record of any heat-related deaths to date for 2012, said Ed Barham, department spokesman. Last year, 17 Arkansans died of heat-related illness.

The man, whose name has not been released, was operating a forklift Sunday morning, that carried artificial turf for installation on a football practice field, according to a statement released by Flintco Co., construction managerfor the UA Football Operations Center. During lunch, the man’s co-workers noticed he was ill and drove him to the hospital.

Statements from Flintco, which has an office in Tontitown, and UA expressed sadness over the man’s death and sympathy for the man’s family, friends and co-workers.

The man was an employee of Symmetry Turf Installations, based in Mount Pleasant, Texas. The company was installing Shaw Sportexe artificial turf for Flintco.

The man’s body temperature reached 109 degrees, Morris said. Hypothermia develops at 104 degrees.

During the hot summer, sweat helps to cool the body, Morris said. Dehydrationhinders a person’s ability to sweat.

“It causes your body temperature to rise,” Morris said. “It’s definitely a medical issue.”

Heat-related deaths typically occur in August, Morris said.

In Fayetteville, the temperature reached 90 at noon and peaked at 96 on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa. High temperatures are expected to remain between 95-100 degrees at least through the weekend.

Construction workers, roofers, farm laborers and highway workers are among employee groups most vulnerable to heat-related illness because they work outside, said Carlos Reynolds, Arkansas area director for OSHA. The agency launched an annual campaign on heat illnessprevention last year to remind employers to provide water, rest and shade for workers exposed to extreme heat.

“We certainly want folks to drink water, even if they’re not thirsty, every 15 minutes,” Reynolds said. “Rest in the shade to cool down. Employers should train their employees to learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.”

While water replenishes the body, rest reduces the heart rate, Reynolds said. Employers decide how often to schedule breaks, but Reynolds suggested a rest break every hour.

Some employers will schedule strenuous outdoor labor early in the day to avoid having employees laboring during the hottest portion of the day, which is typically from 3-5 p.m., Reynolds said. If employers do not provide asafe environment during the heat, their employees can file a complaint with OSHA by calling (501) 224-1841.

OSHA investigates an average of two heat-related deaths annually in Arkansas among private and public employees.

Two investigations of heatrelated deaths in Arkansas in 2011 resulted in one citation for an employer who violated OSHA’s general duty clause, Reynolds said. The clause requires a safe and healthful workplace, which includes protecting workers during extreme heat.

Northwest Arkansas, Pages 11 on 06/27/2012