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Medford Post Office Cited for Employee Death

After a U.S. Postal Service worker was killed in a heat-related accident, officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are taking action. The accident happened to a letter carrier from the Medford office at the Forest Street post.
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The accident happened back in July when the worker was walking his route for about 5 hours in the 90+ degree weather. At that time, the heat index was at roughly 100 degrees. He was carrying a 35-pound mail bag. On that day, officials with the National Weather Service had issued a heat advisory for the area. The service worker died the next day from heat stroke.

Our Medford workers’ compensation attorneys understand that heat-related illnesses, injuries and deaths can be prevented with the proper knowledge of the condition. All workers and employers should be able to recognize the symptoms of heat-related stress and also how to respond to the problem. In this Medford accident, the Postal Service knew of a heat warning in the area, but did not relay the information to its carriers. If they would have passed on this information, precautions could have been made and this death could have been prevented.

Officials with OSHA investigated that Postal Service and found that it repeatedly exposed workers to dangerous heat scenarios. Workers were not provided with the proper heat stress management.

Within this citation, the post office was reprimanded for neglecting to impose feasible means to address the danger. An effective program would be able to inform workers about ways to address, recognize, prevent and respond to the risks.

This citation came with a $7,000f fine. This was the maximum fine that could have been given in a serious violation situation.

Although this may not be an outdoor concern of ours here in Massachusetts in December, heat-related illness, injury and death is still a real threat to those who work inside in extraordinarily warm conditions.

Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness, happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) data, close to 250 heat-related deaths have happened from 2003 to 2009. Over that same time period, close to 15,500 heat-related injuries/illnesses requiring days away from work have occurred.

Employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. Employers should provide workers with water, rest and shade; should gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away for a week or more to build a tolerance for working in the heat (acclimatization); and should educate workers about the symptoms heat-related illnesses and their prevention.

The best way to prevent heat illness is to make the work environment cooler. Indoor workplaces may be cooled by using air conditioning or increase ventilation, assuming that cooler air is available from the outside.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.

More Blog Entries:

Chemical Standards Critical to Protecting Employees from Exposure Injuries, Massachusetts Workers Compensation Lawyers Blog, December 12, 2013

Employee Whistleblower Complaints and Worker Rights in Massachusetts, Massachusetts Workers Compensation Lawyers Blog, December 10, 2013