Workers cope with bitter cold conditions - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Workers cope with bitter cold conditions

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Essential work continues in the Madison area in outdoor locations in the bitter cold, as workers take precautions and make accommodations for the sub-zero temperatures.

"We're a different breed of people," says Madison Water Utility's crew lead Jim Garde.  "We work in the cold, we do it all winter long and we keep on going."

Garde and his crew members responded to some of the more than half-dozen water main breaks across Madison in recent days.  Garde says he uses layers of clothing to stay warm, but notes the nature of his work means his gloves come off at times.

"We'll wrap our tools with rags so our hands don't freeze to them,"  he says.  Garde notes working on piping requires manual dexterity difficult to achieve with gloves.  "It's nice to be able to feel what you're working with."

At Klein's Nursery on East Washington Avenue, construction foreman Marvin Byler and his crew from Ohio-based Green-Tex have put up the walls of a new green house, but the building is not sealed to the cold.

"We just our shipment of glass, we had some missing pieces and we're getting them,"  Byler says.  "We'll be installing all those, get everything closed in, it'll definitely help a lot."

Byler's crew erected the green house in September.  But even with the majority of outside work complete, frigid temperatures still cause some havoc.

"The charging box getting too cold,"  Byler says of the source of some of the power for on-site tools.  "With the batteries not charging, so, we try to get some heat in that."

Garde says water utility field workers brace for the cold and are accustomed to it, but says there are worker compensations claims from crew members at times during winters, primarily for slips and falls on icy surfaces.  Injury prevention relies on heavy-duty winter attire, team work, and coordination.  Garde says there are also more customized, cold weather preparations.

"I grow my winter beard every year,"  Garde says.  "Alot of guys do that.  Different mindset once it starts getting cold."

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