If you live in Iowa, you probably aren’t too worried about the heat index this time of year. Snow measurements are more likely your weather concerns. But whether extreme cold or excessive heat, weather conditions can be critical to worker safety in jobs that require some outdoor activities.
An Iowa postal facility has been cited for repeated serious violations after exposing mail carriers to excessive heat in several different instances in weather with a heat index that was 100 degrees or more. Three of the incidents happened on the first two workdays in 2015 with excessive heat when the carriers had not had the opportunity to become acclimatized to such extreme conditions. One worker was told that heat is worse in other areas of the world and to continue his route. Another informed a superior that he would be late finishing his route because he had to slow down under the extreme conditions and was told to hurry up.
Even within a facility, conditions may become excessively hot or cold enough to cause work-related injuries, but employers may have more control over the temperature within a structure. Those who work outside are more at the mercy of those conditions, but employers can still allow them the flexibility and preparation to work safely. Another issue in this case was that the workers were not provided with adequate communications equipment to contact their employer if they became ill when away from the facility.
OSHA’s heat safety campaign is designed to prevent such illnesses but the agency puts the responsibility on the employer to provide adequate equipment and training and take precautions. The postal facility in this case was fined $46,600 for the violations, but the fines do not equate to the measure of a worker’s safety. If your employer requires you to work in unsafe conditions that have caused you an illness or injury, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An attorney with a background in these matters can be helpful in determining your rights under Iowa laws.
Source: WorkersCompensation.com, “Iowa Postal Facility Exposes Mail Handler to Excessive Heat,” Oct. 28, 2015