Lack of Heat Safety Standard a Risk to Postal Worker Health

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has often cited and issued fines to USPS and UPS for unsafe working conditions, the lack of a national heat standard makes it difficult for the agency to enforce stricter worker protections. But Congress can take action to improve this situation: Representative Judy Chu introduced the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act earlier this year, which calls for paid rest breaks, access to water, and limitations to amount of time spent working in extreme temperatures. This bill would cover the Postal Service, better protecting its nearly 500,000 employees from heat-related health problems.

Some postal workers fear retaliation for taking much-needed breaks or calling out sick when experiencing the effects of heat-related illness. Stocking trucks with frozen water bottles, electrolyte-heavy sports drinks, and pickles can help ward off dehydration and other symptoms, but delivery employees often continue working while feeling ill to avoid negative consequences like reprimanding or dismissal. The Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act also includes protections for workplace whistleblowers, giving employees piece of mind and additional security when reporting unsafe working conditions.

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