Outside workers prepare for subzero temperatures

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 16, 2009, at 11:28 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Those who work outside in Maine know they have to put on extra layers to keep warm, and with temperatures at subzero levels Friday, they were doing just that.

Deputy Chief Troy Morton of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department said most of his deputies have winter bags they keep in the trunks of their cruisers.

“The most difficult thing is we don’t know” whether work will be inside or outside, he said. “It’s hard for the guys. Most of our guys have additional clothing. We don’t have the luxury of running back to the office.”

Each deputy is issued a jacket, a three-layer extreme condition jacket, gloves, boots and hats, but most also carry additional items.

The winter bags contain “an additional jacket, gloves, long johns and an extra hat is in there. That sort of thing.”

About 10 percent of employees at Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility in Brewer work outside in the yards or lay-down areas, so understanding problems that result from extended exposure to the cold is key, Alan Burton, Cianbro vice president of human resources, safety and health, said Friday.

“What we worry about is frostbite,” he said. “When frostbite comes, it comes quick. Unless you can protect all areas of the skin, you can get into trouble quickly in these temperatures.

“Most of our team understands the elements that we work with in Maine,” Burton added.

Company leaders discussed the projected low temperatures on Thursday, and some locations decided not to work on Friday, he said.

It was so cold when employees arrived at work in Brewer, some actually were sent home, Alan Grover, Cianbro spokesman, said Friday morning.

“It was kind of dangerous to have folks working outside today,” he said.

More than 80 percent of the people employed at the South Brewer site work indoors or in enclosed areas that are heated, but a “couple dozen” working outside were sent home, Burton said.

The workers “left around midmorning, and we paid them the company show-up time,” he said.

Because of the bitter cold, “we had a group of people who didn’t come in today … because of transportation [that wouldn’t start] or frozen pipes,” Burton added.

All over the city, people, including school crossing guards and road crews, could be seen working outside with red noses wrapped up in scarves, wearing heavy jackets and gloves.

Meanwhile, Morton explained why law enforcement officers leave their cruisers running, particularly in cold weather. It’s necessary, he said, to keep ancillary equipment functioning properly.

“The worst thing you want is to respond to the scene and have that equipment not work,” he said.

Special electronic equipment, such as laptop computers, digital cameras and defibrillators, will not work correctly if exposed to the cold, and medical and DNA kits must be kept warm because they contain distilled water that can freeze, the deputy chief said.

In cold weather, the “danger today is not only to the officer,” he said. “On top of the guys keeping themselves warm, it’s a mater of protecting their equipment too.”

nricker@bangordailynews.net

990-8190

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/01/16/uncategorized/outside-workers-prepare-for-subzero-temperatures/ printed on July 25, 2014