Heat Affecting Workers Across the Country

25 Jul, 2022 Liz Carey

                               

Carteret, NJ (WorkersCompensation.com) – Officials say workers are being affected by the heat as record temperatures grip the country.   

On Monday, July 18, in Carteret, N.J., federal safety officials confirmed to multiple outlets that they are investigating the death of an Amazon warehouse worker after they collapsed on the job.   

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the worker died at the fulfillment center on July 13 – part of the company’s two-day Prime Day promotion. First responders were called to the facility for a first aid call. A worker at the facility was transported to the hospital, however, Amazon confirmed that the employee later died.   

“We’re deeply saddened by the passing of one of our colleagues and offer our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time," said Amazon spokesperson Sam Stephenson said in a statement. "We’ve contacted his family to offer support and will provide counseling resources to employees needing additional care.” 

According to Accuweather, the temperature in Carteret reached a high of 92 on July 13 as a dangerous heat wave affected a large swatch of the U.S. More than 100 million people across the country were under an excessive heat warning or heat advisory that week, the Weather Prediction Center said at the time.   

Federal prosecutors in New York and the Department of Labor also announced Monday announced they were conducting inspections of Amazon warehouses across the country as part of a civil investigation into “unsafe and unseemly workplace conditions.”   

"This morning, the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration entered Amazon warehouses outside New York City, Chicago and Orlando to conduct workplace safety inspections in response to referrals received from the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York concerning potential workplace hazards related, among other things, to Amazon's required pace of work for its warehouse employees," a spokesman Nicholas Biase said in a statement. "The Civil Division of the SDNY is investigating potential worker safety hazards at Amazon warehouses across the country, as well as possible fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others.”   

OSHA later told ABC News that it had received referrals from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York in regard to safety and health violations at several Amazon facilities, and that the agency had opened investigations into Amazon workplaces.   

The investigations come as temperatures continue to soar, and workers continue to exhibit signs of injury due to the heat.   

On July 14, Ring doorbell camera video captured video of a delivery driver collapsing on the porch of a Scottsdale, Arizona resident. The video of homeowner Brian Enriquez shows a UPS delivery driver arriving on his porch, seemingly struggling to walk to the door. Video then shows the driver gradually collapsing to the floor. Although the driver seems to regain some of his strength and get back to his vehicle, he still appears to struggle to walk.   

According to UPS, the driver is now “fine” and contacted his manager after the incident. UPS told Newsweek it discourages employees from continuing to work if their health is at risk.  

"We appreciate the concern for our employee and can report that he is fine," a spokesperson told Newsweek in a statement. "UPS drivers are trained to work outdoors and for the effects of hot weather. Our employee used his training to be aware of his situation and contact his manager for assistance, who immediately provided assistance. We never want our employees to continue working to the point that they risk their health or work in an unsafe manner."  

On July 14, temperatures reached 110 degrees in Arizona.  

Earlier in July, another UPS driver died suddenly in Pasadena, Calif., while working.  

On July 2, Esteban Chavez was delivering packages in Pasadena when he collapsed in his truck. While a cause of death has not been officially established, Chavez’s family believes the worker suffered from heat stroke and was comatose for more than 20 minutes before a nearby resident noted his condition and called for help.   

Temperatures in Southern California in early July were in the upper 90s.   

On July 20, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., joined the National Resource Defense Council and others representing workers to advocate for federal workplace heat stress protections.   

Padilla and Chu, with labor representatives, discussed the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, the Congress members introduced and sponsored that would protect the safety and health of workers exposed to dangerous heat conditions in the workplace. The bill would require the U.S. Department of Labor to create an occupational safety or health standard on preventing exposure to excessive heat, as well as establish requirement concerning training and education to prevent and respond to heat illness, and whistle-blower protections.   

“The climate crisis has accelerated the dangers of extreme heat, especially in California where we’re also suffering from record droughts and dangerous wildfires,” Padilla during a press conference. “Yet, our country has never passed a federal standard to protect workers from these increasingly hazardous conditions. OSHA must act on this problem with the urgency that workers deserve. We simply can’t afford to wait.”  


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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