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USPS carrier dies amid extreme heat in Texas

OSHA has cited USPS in the past for providing an unsafe work environment for its employees in extreme heat.
USPS carrier dies amid extreme heat in Texas
Posted at 1:27 PM, Jun 22, 2023

A U.S. Postal Service carrier died Tuesday as much of Texas has encountered dangerously extreme heat. 

According to KXAS-TV, Eugene Gates died while making deliveries in the Dallas area. Gates was a 40-year employee of USPS, the outlet reported. 

KXAS-TV said a cause of death has not been determined but reported heat could be a factor. 

The National Weather Service reported a high temperature of 96 at Dallas' Love Field on Tuesday. The heat index reached 115 for several hours. 

USPS released a statement on Wednesday following the carrier's death.

"The Postal Service is deeply saddened by the loss of life suffered yesterday involving a Lakewood Post Office Letter Carrier," USPS said. "Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time."

SEE MORE: UPS vehicles could soon be equipped with air conditioning

The issue of protecting carriers at USPS and elsewhere has been a growing issue in recent years. UPS employees recently voted to authorize a strike. One of the union's main sticking points is better access to air conditioning and ventilation for UPS workers. 

The National Association of Letter Carriers urged its members to familiarize themselves with the Heat Illness Prevention Program. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited USPS multiple times in the last decade for violating workplace safety standards due to heat-related illnesses and deaths. 

According to OSHA, USPS was cited in 2019, months after a carrier died in Southern California in 2018. OSHA said the carrier experienced hyperthermia as the outdoor temperature reached 117 degrees. 

"The U.S. Postal Service knows the dangers of working in high-heat conditions and is required to address employee safety in these circumstances," said then-OSHA Oakland Area Office Director Amber Rose in 2019. "USPS is responsible for establishing work practices to protect mail carriers who work outdoors from the hazards of extreme temperatures."

In 2016, OSHA cited USPS after multiple carriers reported heat-related illnesses that summer. One Iowa mail carrier asked to be relieved after walking halfway through her 11-mile route in 93-degree heat. Another carrier that summer was hospitalized after walking 5 miles when the heat index reached 111 degrees in Illinois, OSHA reported.

OSHA also issued a citation in 2013 after carrier James Baldassarre died after walking his route for five hours when heat indices reached 100 degrees in Arkansas. 

In response to questions on what policy changes USPS has made in the wake of these alleged violations, USPS issued the following statement to Scripps News:

"Our carriers deliver the mail throughout the year during varying temperatures and climatic conditions. This includes during the summer months when the temperatures rise throughout the country. The safety of our employees is a top priority, and the Postal Service has implemented a national Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) for all employees. In connection with the HIPP, the Postal Service provides mandatory heat-related and other safety training and instruction to all employees and assures they have the resources needed to do their jobs safely. Carriers are reminded to ensure they're hydrated, wear appropriate clothing, including hats, get in the shade whenever possible, and to take sufficient amounts of water and ice with them out on their routes. Carriers are further instructed to contact 9-1-1 in the event they begin experiencing any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and they are provided with information to help them identify the symptoms associated with these two forms of heat illness."

A request for comment was left with the National Association of Letter Carriers.

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