Workplace issues

Extreme weather

Redesigned Heat Safety Tool app released

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have collaborated to update OSHA’s original Heat Safety Tool app for smartphones. Click here to learn more.

Current heat index

Click here to get your current heat index from The Weather Channel—and bookmark that page for future reference.

Water. Rest. Shade.

OSHA’s campaign to keep workers safe in the heat

Defense against CARE-related action(s)

 

 

Extreme weather

Safety in extreme heat


NOTE: The video (from 2014) states that you should drink eight 8-ounce cups of water per day. However, the more recent May 2015 “Beat the Heat, Stay Cool” safety talk recommends drinking at least 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes to maintain good hydration.

Many offices have failed to give heat-related safety talks, including the May 2015 “Beat the Heat, Stay Cool.” Your national business agents received this stand-up talk and distributed it to their branches. If this mandatory stand-up talk has not been given in your station, please reach out to your branch president, who should have received it.

OSHA Heat Safety Quick Card (PDF)
OSHA’s heat safety app for smartphones

Here is an excerpt from a statement made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on the importance of being prepared:

Whenever there is high heat, outdoor workers are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses and deaths. In fact, every year thousands of workers experience heat-related illnesses, and dozens more are killed by heat, and it happens in every part of the country...

The workers most at risk for heat-related illness are in construction and agriculture, but there are many outdoor workers in other industries who are at increased risk as well. These include workers in transportation, sanitation and recycling, building and grounds maintenance, landscaping services, oil and gas operations, and anyone else who does strenuous work in the open air.

We need your help to get the word out to employers that they are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. This means regular breaks for workers so they can cool down. It means regular access to water so workers can stay hydrated. It means training for workers on the symptoms of heat illness—and what to do if they see a co-worker showing signs of dehydration or heat stroke.

Here are key pieces of advice from the safety talk:

  • Hydrate before, during and after work. Prevention is important, so make sure to maintain good hydration by drinking at least 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather. On warm days, make sure to wear light colored, loose fitting, breathable clothing to keep body temperatures down.
  • Utilize shade to stay cool. When possible, use shaded areas to stay out of direct sunlight.
  • Know the signs of heat stress. You should understand what heat stress is, and how it can affect your health and safety. Here are some things to look out for:
  • Finally, it’s important to notify your supervisor or call 911 if you’re experiencing signs of heat-related illnesses (see below).

The entire text of the press conference is available here for your review. Read it and all the heat-related illness material posted here on our website and pass it along to your brothers and sisters to prevent tragedy.

Water. Rest. Shade.

OSHA’s campaign to keep workers safe in the heat

Are you drinking enough water?

On page 154 of NIOSH Publication 2016-106, you will find the “Urine Color Chart—Are you hydrated?”

The chart (also shown at right) expresses the urgency to drink more water if the color of your urine appears to be in the dehydrated range.

Do you know the signs of heat illness?

Some tips on avoiding heat-related problems, and the symptoms of—and necessary action to take for—heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Watch for symptoms of HEAT EXHAUSTION and HEAT STROKE (see below).
  • Be prepared to act by learning correct first aid procedures ahead of time.

“Protecting Workers from Heat Illness,” a 3-page infosheet, is available for download here from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At times, workers may be required to work in hot environments for long periods. When the human body is unable to maintain a normal temperature, heat-related illnesses can occur and may result in death. This fact sheet provides information to employers on measures they should take to prevent heat-related illnesses and death.

OSHA Review Commission decision re letter carrier John Watzlawick

On July 24, 2012, John Watzlawick, an Independence, MO, letter carrier lost his life as a direct result of heat illness. Following an investigation, citation (and challenge) and trial, a decision was issued on September 10, 2014. Click here to read more.

Carriers have asked a number of questions about M#01860 and its application outside the Independence, MO Post Office. Please see this July 2, 2015 document for NALC's response.

Enforcing heat safety rules

On July 24, 2012, John Watzlawick, an Independence, MO, letter carrier, lost his life as a direct result of heat illness. An extensive investigation was conducted by OSHA and the office of Region 5 National Business Agent Dan Pittman. On Dec. 12, 2012, OSHA issued a citation (Inspection #538158) labeled as "Willful" (click here for a copy).

USPS challenged the citation. A decision was issued on Sept. 10, 2014 (copy of decision).

In May 2015, NALC and USPS bargained the “Heat Abatement Program” for the Independence, MO post office (M-01860). Carriers have asked a number of questions about M-01860 and its application outside the Independence post office. Please see this July 2, 2015, document for NALC's official position on the relevance of M-01860 outside of Independence (copy of letter).

OSHA has prepared a 41-page “All in One Heat Guide” that you can download by clicking here. The first page of the guide advises as follows:

OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in hot environments. Nonetheless, under the OSH Act, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards. This guide helps employers and worksite supervisors prepare and implement hot weather plans. It explains how to use the heat index to determine when extra precautions are needed at a worksite to protect workers from environmental contributions to heat-related illness. Workers performing strenuous activity, workers using heavy or non-breathable protective clothing, and workers who are new to an outdoor job need additional precautions beyond those warranted by heat index alone.

In addition to the above training material provided by OSHA, the USPS has issued a number of instructions as follows:

In May of 2014, the USPS distributed a Mandatory Stand-up Talk for Supervisors, which required that they train themselves on heat safety, train their employees, monitor the weather, acclimate employees to the heat and have a plan in place to respond to the needs of employees during heat advisories.

On May, 8, 2015, the USPS issued a Mandatory Safety Talk titled “Beat the Heat, Stay Cool.”

The May 28, 2015 Postal Bulletin 22416 and the July 23, 2015 Postal Bulletin 22420 include a heat safety message.

In the event that a shop steward or branch officer wishes to investigate management action (or lack of action) related to a heat abatement program in your office, you may use this form to request information.

Smartphone heat safety tool: Download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool, an app for Android devices and iPhones. The app includes a quick way to calculate the heat index and see appropriate protective measures that should be taken before someone gets hurt.

Filing an OSHA complaint: In the event that you feel it necessary to file a complaint with OSHA over management’s failure to protect letter carriers in your office from the harm of extreme heat, click here to see your options on how to file.

Anti-retaliation: The Occupational Safety and Health Act, at Section 11 (c), mandates that

No person shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding or because of the exercise by such employee on behalf of himself or others of any right afforded by this Act.

If you believe that management has retaliated against you, you have the right to file a whistleblower complaint within the 30-day time limit provided for postal employees. All of the information necessary to file a whistleblower complaint can be found here

For immediate assistance: To assist you on issues involving heat safety, please send an e-mail to NALC Director of Safety and Health Manuel Peralta at the following address: peralta@nalc.org

In your e-mail, please identify yourself by name and position held (letter carrier, shop steward or title of union position held) along with identification of your work location (station, city and state) and contact information (cell number and e-mail address) so that we may begin to assist you as soon as possible.

Additionally, you may download this “Initial Heat Injury Report” form, fill it out, and send a copy of it to Director Peralta.

OSHA/NIOSH Heat Safety Tool

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have collaborated to update OSHA’s original Heat Safety Tool app for smartphones.

The updated app, available for both Android and iPhone, provides a clearer user interface while still providing the same information to help keep employees safe when working outdoors in hot weather.

Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather-related hazard; each year more than 65,000 people seek medical treatment for extreme heat exposure.

Letter carriers who are exposed to hot and humid conditions can use the app to check the heat index and learn about the relevant protective measures. The app displays the heat index in the user’s location and shows the current risk level. 

Click here to get your current heat index from The Weather Channel—and bookmark the page for future reference.

The app also forecasts the hourly heat index throughout the entire workday, giving employers information they can use to adjust the work environment as needed to protect workers. It provides tips for recognizing the signs of heat-related illness and for rendering first aid, plus links to more information and to NIOSH/OSHA contact information.

Note: If you have the original OSHA app on your phone, it will no longer function after Sept. 30.

To download the updated app and get more information on OSHA’s efforts to help protect employees from the heat, visit OSHA’s heat campaign web page.

Visit the NIOSH page in support of the app to learn more about it and to get answers to frequently asked questions, such as “What is a heat index?”, “When should I use the heat index?”, and “Is monitoring the heat index enough to keep workers safe?”

OSHA citations relating to heat safety

These OSHA citations are provided for your use in protecting letter carriers from the heat.

If you file a complaint with OSHA relating to management’s failure to protect letter carriers from heat-related illness, please provide the OSHA investigator with a copy of each of the attached citations:

Extreme cold

Safety in cold temperatures

The Postal Service has issued mandatory safety talks to be given to all employees regarding protection from cold temperatures.

Click here for the Postal Service document management provided for this talk.

If management has not provided this safety talk, advise your supervisor, shop steward, branch officers or, if necessary, your national business agent.

Bottom line: Do not put yourself in danger.

Click here to read best practices for working safely in winter conditions from the USPS Postal Bulletin

Click here to see a copy of a citation issued by OSHA following the death of a letter carrier in Buffalo, NY, after a slip and fall on ice.

Click here for an information sheet from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about protecting yourself from hypothermia.

Lightning

Lightning Safety (NALC Director of Safety & Health column, May 2017 Postal Record)

Lightning Information for Workers (CDC)

Lightning Safety Tips (CDC)

Lightning FAQs (CDC)

Thunderstorms & Lightning (FEMA)

Dept. of Labor, 2003, Interpretation of OSHA's General Duty Clause:

“…Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the "General Duty Clause") requires an employer to furnish to its employees:

"employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees..."

Candle light vigil for letter carrier Christine Jones (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 2010)