In Texas, where temperatures have reached record highs, a second delivery driver has passed away. This tragedy comes as the state’s laws governing occupational heat safety are put in a new legal limbo.
Although the state appealed a judge’s Wednesday verdict that a Republican-led law requiring water breaks for construction workers during heat waves in certain cities was unconstitutional, the statute that repealed that requirement went into force on Friday. As the dispute is ongoing, cities like Houston stated they intended to keep enforcing their regulations.
The dispute began a few days after Christopher Begley, a 57-year-old UPS driver of over 30 years, passed away on Sunday at a hospital after falling on his route outside Dallas the previous Wednesday, according to representatives from the company and the union. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the United States is looking into it. Although an autopsy report hasn’t been made public, coworkers and local union leaders said they think the man died of heatstroke.
Workers have perished this summer around the nation, notably in Texas, which has seen some of the worst heat waves this year due to climate change. According to OSHA, it has launched investigations into more than 20 workplace fatalities attributed to heat this year alone in Texas.
Begley passed away less than a week after 340,000 UPS employees accepted a new, five-year contract with historic heat safety requirements.
Urgent Need for Workplace Safeguards
The safeguards—some of the best in the sector—include air conditioning, exhaust heat shields, and extra fans in package cars. However, their implementation will take some time. On August 23, the day following the announcement of the vote authorizing the deal, Begley became ill while working.
According to UPS, a supervisor arrived to help Begley after he passed out and gave him water and a cool area to rest, but he refused medical care. Four days after the company gave its approval for him to take the remainder of the week off, Begley was admitted to the hospital and eventually passed away on August 27, according to a company representative.
In June, when the National Weather Service had issued a warning about severe heat, 66-year-old U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Eugene Gates collapsed on his Dallas route and eventually passed away. At the time of Gates’ passing, USPS expressed its “deep sadness” but made no mention of the details. The fatality is being looked into by OSHA as possibly being heat-related.
The organization identifies more than 70 industries as having a high risk of heat disease, including delivery, construction, agriculture, and many forms of manufacturing. According to a recent study, hotter weather dramatically increases the risk of occupational injuries, particularly those that aren’t immediately heat-related, not just in outdoor settings but also indoor sectors like the nation’s rapidly expanding warehouses.
As temperatures climb, concerns about heat safety have attracted more attention from Washington lawmakers, particularly Democrats. But the political calendar and environmental conditions are outpacing federal efforts to strengthen regulations.
Source: NBC News