OSHA cites Postal Service for Independence carrier's death - KCTV5


OSHA cites Postal Service for Independence carrier's heat-related death

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Federal officials have cited the U.S. Postal Service for failing to protect employees working in excessive heat after Kansas City area mail carrier collapsed and died of heat-related causes.

The Jackson County medical examiner said John Watzlawick died of heat-related illness last July.

The death report says Watzlawick had a body temperature of 108 degrees when he arrived at an Independence hospital's emergency room July 24. The medical examiner also said a heart attack was a secondary cause of death.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated an inspection after Watzlawick's death and cited the U.S. Postal Service Truman Station in Independence.

"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 addressed 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.

OSHA said the employer did not have procedures in place to address worker concerns during times of excessive heat.  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.

Watzlawick's wife, Kay, told The Kansas City Star, KCTV5's reporting partner, that her 55-year-old husband was feeling ill with the heat since the day before, and was refused permission to end his route early. He had been off the previous week as he recovered from surgery. She said he was denied the sick day because of this.

He was also required to work mandatory overtime.

To read previous coverage, click here.

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