The heat index hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of June when a mailman in Iowa called for help finishing his route. The air was thick with humidity, making it harder for his body to cool itself. He had already spent more than five hours alternating between a truck with no air conditioning and deliveries on foot with a bag full of mail. Later, a coworker who saw him at a gas station would remember how pale and clammy his skin looked.
But the head of his post office chided him for complaining — responding, “How hot do you think it is in Afghanistan?” — and told him to keep going, according to inspection records from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). By the time the mailman stopped working three hours later, he’d fallen sick from the heat, his body shaking uncontrollably. He couldn’t come to work the next day. Two of his colleagues also had symptoms of heat stress. “There was no regard for the employee’s health,” an OSHA inspector wrote about the incident.