OSHA cites USPS for worker’s heat-related death in Independence, Mo.

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service Truman Station in Independence, Mo., with a willful violation for failing to protect employees working in excessive heat. OSHA initiated an inspection in July after a mail carrier developed heat-related illness symptoms, collapsed while working his route and was taken to the hospital where he died as a result of his exposure to excessive heat.

“This tragedy underscores the need for employers to take proactive steps to keep workers safe in extreme heat,” said Charles Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City. “If this employer had trained workers in recognizing the symptoms of heat stroke, and taken precautions to ensure workers had access to water, rest and shade, this unfortunate incident may have been avoided.”

The willful violation addresses the hazard of multiple employees who were required to work during periods when excessive heat advisories and warnings were issued by the National Weather Service. The employer did not have procedures in place to address worker concerns during times of excessive heat. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Information and resources for workers and employers on heat illness, including how to prevent it and what to do in case of an emergency, are available in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html. Materials include a training curriculum. OSHA also has a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites, which can be downloaded in English or Spanish at http://s.dol.gov/RI. The application displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level.

Penalties of $70,000 have been proposed. The Postal Service has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Kansas City, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.