US Postal Service cited by US Labor Department's OSHA after heat-related
death of Medford, Mass., mail carrier in July heat wave
Cited for inadequate heat stress program and communication of heat hazards to carriers
ANDOVER, Mass. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service for a serious safety violation in connection with the heat-related death of a letter carrier from the Forest Street post office in Medford.
"Heat stress illnesses and fatalities can be prevented with knowledge. Knowing how to recognize and respond to symptoms can save a life," said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties in Massachusetts. "In this case, the Postal Service had such information, but failed to communicate it to letter carriers, so they could protect themselves. Had this been done, this tragedy could have been prevented."
James Baldassarre collapsed on July 5 after walking his route for about five hours in 94-degree heat with a heat index in excess of 100 degrees. He carried a mail bag weighing up to 35 pounds. The area was under a heat advisory from the National Weather Service. Baldassarre died the next day as a result of heat stroke.
OSHA's investigation found that the Postal Service exposed workers to the recognized hazard of working in excessive heat by failing to implement an adequate heat stress management program that would have addressed and informed mail carriers of how to identify, prevent and report symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
The citation includes suggested feasible means to address the hazard including adequately implementing a heat stress management program tailored to the particulars of the work performed by mail carriers. An effective program would contain measures to address the recognized hazard of exposure to excessive heat and it would train workers to recognize, prevent, respond to and report heat-related illnesses.
The citation, which carries a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum fine that can be assessed for a serious violation, can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/USPS917092.pdf*. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Information about OSHA's campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses among outdoor workers can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/heat. OSHA also has a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. It is available for download on Android-based platforms and the iPhone at http://www.osha.gov/heatapp.
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, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Andover office at 978-837-4460.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 292-693-7828 or TTY 292-693-7755.
* Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.