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Outdoor workers say winter weather adds extra challenge

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 11:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 12:14 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
MDC Environmental Services employee Jeff Hasselmann picks up recyclables along his route as snow begins to come down Tuesday in Woodstock. "The winter is tough," Hasselmann said. "I can handle the heat in the summer, just bring extra water." Hasselmann said that Jan. 7, during the deep freeze, was the coldest weather he has ever worked in.

WOODSTOCK – During the winter months, Jeff Hasselmann typically heads to work dressed in layers, including a couple of sweatshirts, overalls, rubber boots and a heavy jacket.

The layers are necessary when the workday involves driving throughout Woodstock in frigid temperatures with the passenger’s side door open.

But the work conditions don’t faze Hasselmann, who is accustomed to Midwestern winters after spending the past 15 years as a ­recycle collector for MDC Environmental Services.

“When you add snow and ice, it makes the job that much more harder,” Hasselmann said. “You really have to be alert at all times because your conditions deal with black ice or wet snow that packs down.”

During the recent snowfall and arctic cold, many businesses gave days off or shortened workdays to employees. But for trash collectors, firefighters, policemen, public works employees and mailmen, the winter elements just add another challenge to the job.

Hasselmann runs daily collector routes throughout Woodstock in the mornings with a front-loaded truck. The job requires him to exit the vehicle at each stop to ensure that people’s recyclables are disposed securely into his truck.

Driving without the passenger’s side door closed, Hasselmann said he often struggles to keep his hands and feet warm throughout his route.

He constantly has to check his mirrors for passing drivers while driving in snowy and icy conditions. Those conditions make it even harder to prevent his truck from sliding and slipping on the road.

When asked whether he prefers winter or summer, Hasselmann didn’t hesitate with an answer.

“Definitely the summer,” he said. “I’ll take 100 degrees over sliding in the snow and waiting for a mechanic.”

Huntley police on patrols during winter face similar issues, said Deputy Chief Michael Klunk. Police typically deal with increased stress and fatigue when driving throughout Huntley on a 12-hour patrol shift in snowy and icy conditions, he said.

Police tasked with clearing an accident or directing traffic for multiple hours usually layer up or bring extra hats, scarfs and sweatshirts to guard against the cold and frostbite.

“It’s not so much about the job. The actual climate at a particular time may just have an impact on the ability to get jobs done quicker,” Klunk said. “It’s just one more thing you need to think about when you are out trying to get whatever needs to be done.”

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