The Fechino Files: Summer Is Here

Words: Steven Fechino

Steven Fechino

By the time you read this, the World of Concrete will have already taken place, and temperatures in Las Vegas will have eclipsed 100 degrees.  Since I live in and work outside in the humid south, I am conditioned to warmer weather. However, for this event, I have been preparing.  My friends who work in the southwest daily have offered a few tips that I will follow and can apply to anywhere the temperatures rise.  

First, cover-up, head to toe, long sleeves, and long pants.  Second, protect the head, wear dark glasses, and protect the head with a big hat or helmet drape.  Third, do not wait till you are thirsty before you drink water. Drink it before you begin work, during the shift, and once you are off the shift. If you get a dehydration headache, you most likely will have it all day.  One of these headaches will convince you of the importance of drinking plenty of water. It did it for me.  

In the case of the World of Concrete, alcohol consumption (I know a bricklayer drinking alcohol at a convention...) in the heat will affect your body differently than if you are from a cooler climate.  Fourth, this is new to me. Keep a five-gallon bucket of water for hand tools that get hot. It will keep the skin on your hands.

I know many folks who work outside all year long are tough guys but take this summer's heat seriously no matter where you work.  Everyone I know owns at least one cooler, go on and put it in the back of the truck and fill it with cold bottles of water or sports drinks for the guys when you visit the job.  It will go a LONG way to keep the morale up on hot days.  Most jobs have a community 10-gallon water cooler. Does your crew have a wastebasket and paper cups?

Sunblock is another good thing to consider. There is no reason we should not protect ourselves. Sunburn is unnecessary and sunblock is inexpensive. 

A couple of summer topics that you can look into. Are the mixer gasoline cans stored away from the mortar mixing station (this step will keep the sand out of the engine) and in the shade?  Do you have rags, spark plugs, air filters, grease, and the correct weight oil available for daily and weekly servicing?   

Does the mixer person have the hand tools to do the servicing?  It is also a good time to restock the First Aid Cabinets in the job trailers. Aspirin, band-aids, 4x4 gauze, and tape are usually all that is missing from most cabinets.

Since safety meetings are critical and the documentation of the meetings is so important, now is a good time to identify safety meeting topics and ensure that the foreman or superintendent has the means for recording the meeting's agenda (paper or digital).  It is also very important to make sure the record of the meetings is properly filed at the main office and not on the seat of the truck.

Has your management team been asked about a 4-10 schedule?  When I managed work, it was always a May/June question, should we or shouldn't we.  It was a crew-by-crew decision, not a companywide decision. Here are what I had for criteria: job requirements and will it work with the contract?  Some contracts had mandatory work times. I really cannot change that. Small jobs vs. larger jobs, if I am starting and stopping a bunch of small jobs with a particular crew, many times, it would not be profitable because the entire crew would finish up mid-day and set up for the next job without having enough time to start the next job that same day losing an hour or two along the way.  

For larger jobs, if the contract and schedule would allow, the clean-up man could be scheduled for Thursdays, and if production were met, I would allow the modified schedule with the criteria that production continued to be met for hours worked.  This would be reviewed initially and weekly with the crew during the safety meetings.  

Production typically decreased slightly after the fourth or fifth week because of the heat and hard work. People become exhausted with the schedule. I always like the approach of giving a few hours off on Fridays if the previous week’s production was met. It simply kept everyone motivated to work hard and get off early.

Have a safe summer, stay careful and find some shade as often as possible.

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