The U.S. Postal Service has been cited by OSHA for a serious safety violation in connection with the heat-related death of a letter carrier from the Forest Street post office in Medford, Mass.
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, who was found by an area residents lying on a sidewalk, died the next day as a result of heat stroke.
“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.”
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. 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.