Gabriel Ramirez could feel the heat Tuesday afternoon.
Clad in heavy rubber boots, a dark shirt and jeans, the construction worker at the Gene Leahy Mall was among the many across Omaha working outdoors on what was one of the city's hottest and most humid days of the year. The temperature topped out at 96 degrees.
“My body is getting tired out here,” Ramirez said.
By about 2:30 p.m., Ramirez, with All Purpose Construction, had taken about 20 short breaks to step into the shade as the heat index reached a high of 103 degrees.
The heat “is really slowing me down,” he said.
With Tuesday one of the hottest days so far this year, additional breaks and lots of water were necessary for workers, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. OSHA considers a heat index of 103 degrees to 115 degrees to pose a high risk to outdoor workers.
The agency also notes that its guidelines understate the risk to those who work continuously in the sun. That's because the National Weather Service heat index is based on shady areas and a breeze. Working in full sun could raise the index by 15 degrees, according to OSHA.
Omaha's six Alegent Creighton Health centers saw two patients with heat-related symptoms at its Omaha locations on Tuesday afternoon.
Lakeside hospital emergency medicine physician Dr. Adam Chick advised people to try to take breaks in cool places and to drink plenty of water.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion can be hard to pinpoint, he said. Fatigue and nausea are the most common symptoms, but if people start to vomit, they should seek medical attention immediately.
“A lot of people will over-exert themselves,” Chick said. “People just need to be careful and not overdo it.”
Those working outside in the sun aren't the only ones in danger from the heat. Indoor construction projects can also get hot.
Brent Linder, an electrician for Engineered Controls in Omaha, was installing electrical equipment Tuesday on the first floor of the new Hyatt Place Hotel in the Old Market. The air doesn't move inside, and Linder estimated that the temperature rose as high as 120.
“We keep the fans going, but that only helps a little bit,” Linder said.
To combat the oven-like temperatures, Linder stayed extra hydrated. By 2 p.m., he said, he had downed 1½ gallons of water.
But the water can do only so much. He also took a more traditional approach to beating the heat.
“I'm just in there sweating it out,” he said.
World-Herald staff writer Nancy Gaarder contributed to this report.