Waikato's hottest jobs

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 08:15 13/01/2014
Steven Welburn, Surecast Metals, welder
Chris Hillock/Fairfax NZ

HOT AS: This underground kiln at Surecast Metals reaches temperatures of 1000 degrees Celsius and is tested by Steven Welburn.

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At this time of year the heat is a common topic for office chat and everyone wants to sit under the air conditioning vents.

But spare a thought for those whose jobs stop them from escaping the heat, or even amplify it.

The Waikato Times caught up with people doing five of the hottest jobs in the region.

Some of the furnaces in Steven Welburn's Frankton workshop can get to more than 1700 degrees to turn steel scraps into a molten mixture to pour into a mould.

Mr Welburn is the manager of Surecast Metals and said his work was a "hot, smelly, dirty business".

"On one side you've got the furnace, the other side you've got the ladle being heated and as you're going down the factory to pour the molten metal into the moulds you've then got the cast moulds that are already hot as well."

For safety, workers are covered up in full length overalls, and often sporting earmuffs and face masks.

They combat the heat by opening the workshop doors to get a flow through, and have the ventilation fans running.

The job satisfaction comes from taking something from idea to object, Mr Welburn said.

"You create something . . . at times you've done your day's work and you can actually see what you have done at the end of a day."

Kerry O'Brien is an insulation installer for Eco Energy Solutions. Temperatures in the ceiling of a house can reach 50 degrees Celsius on a hot afternoon, but Mr O'Brien enjoys his job.

During the summer, he and his workmates start on ceilings as early as 7am.

But a hot morning can still see them carrying insulation materials around in 30 to 40 degree heat and cramped spaces.

"You have to keep pumping the fluids and food into you."

So the ceiling is done first, leaving the comparatively cooler underfloor heating for when the day heats up.

They wear white paper suits - "it's so hot you can't really wear much under there" - and some jobs take up to five hours.

"We try to stay up there and power through it so we don't have to keep getting in and out, but sometimes you just can't help it - it's that hot." 

After almost 30 years in the field of electricity networks, Sean Molloy has been out to fix faults in all kinds of weather.

Mr Molloy is a technical advisor - construction at WEL Networks.

It's hot work in the linesman's mandatory fluoro suit - they are fire retardant and essential for safety but don't breathe, and some crews are required to wear full sleeve gloves.

So rotating staff is extra important in summer.

WEL Networks provides chilled water and sunscreen, and workers can move to a designated safe area for a break, take off the overalls, and sweat for a bit.

"You have to sweat to cool. You can drink as much water as you like, but it's not going to fix your core temperature," Mr Molloy said.

For him, job satisfaction comes from helping customers.

"If you lose your power and I knock on your door I'll fix it - as quickly and as safely as I can, in any weather condition."

Summer feels a lot hotter when working with 160-170 degree bitumen, but "it's just what you do, just get used to it", Richard Gurnell, project manager for Hamilton Asphalts said.

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Mr Gurnell should know, as he's been in the trade about 35 years.

Workers who use a handheld sprayer cover up with cotton overalls, gloves, a hat, and a "headshield".

"You've got to be clothed up . . . if you fall over or trip in it, it can burn," Mr Gurnell said.

The heat comes from all directions - blazing sun above, and radiated heat from under the heat-proof boots.

Respite from the heat comes from drinking plenty of fluids, cooling down using water tanks on site, or taking a break in the shade.

Tony Elliottyson believes if you want to stay in the kitchen, you've got to be able to handle the heat.

Mr Elliottyson is owner/chef at Smith and McKenzie Chophouse. He has been working in kitchens for about 20 years, so he is used to "sweltering" in a double-breasted chef's jacket.

"When busy service comes on you've got everything cranked up on hot. You're working in front of gas hobs, char grills, and deep fryers, which are all adding to the heat. And then it gets pretty busy as well."

The Smith and McKenzie kitchen is an open one and there are three large extractor fans to suck out the hot air, but he estimates temperatures get up to 40 degrees.

A typical dinner service at the restaurant lasts about four hours and up to 150 meals would be served, so plenty of food prep before and fluids throughout are vital for the chefs.

It can be a hot and sweaty job, he said, but the customers' appreciation makes it all worthwhile.

- Waikato Times

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