Eugene Gates’ body temperature reached a scorching 104 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to the intense Texas heat wave, before he collapsed in a Dallas front yard while on mail duty.
Gates, 66, had carried his iconic U.S. Mail bag through the same wealthy neighborhood for much of his 35-year career, until he
passed away due to heat exhaustion
Unable to be resuscitated, a man passed away on a hot June day despite the homeowner’s efforts to administer CPR.
The passing of Gates is linked to a flurry of accusations against the U.S. Postal Service for disregarding their heat safety protocols and altering official records to cover up their actions during an intense summer of scorching temperatures, resulting in the deaths of many individuals throughout the country.
Under its own policy
The agency must provide training to letter carriers every spring to identify signs of heat illness and instruct them on proper actions to take if they become ill.
Gates was not given proper training and his managers allegedly altered official records to conceal this fact before his passing. According to his wife Carla and representatives from the National Association of Letter Carriers union, there are other cases like this.
Thousands of postal workers are making mounting allegations as the USPS, burdened by debt, urges employees to increase delivery speed in the face of increased competition and record-breaking temperatures. This has sparked concern among certain members of Congress who question the Postal Service’s ability to safeguard its workers from the effects of climate change.
During a three-month inquiry conducted by POLITICO’s E&E News, numerous instances of possible violations were discovered. This was based on an extensive review of internal union records, federal workplace grievances, and interviews with 18 carriers, union representatives, and professionals.
Accusations of inadequate training and fabricated documents have emerged at post offices in at least 10 states, including Texas, New Jersey, Utah, and Illinois. In Chicago specifically, the union claims that postal supervisors have falsified over 2,000 records of couriers, highlighting a widespread issue of policy breaches amidst rising global temperatures. This national scale of allegations has not been previously disclosed.
Brian Renfroe, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, stated to E&E News that there are numerous instances where training was not completed and a notable difference exists between the records of the Postal Service and what actually occurred.
The request to interview Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was declined by the Postal Service. They also did not respond to over twenty questions regarding the union’s claims of altered records and other concerns. However, there have been three documented cases where Postal Service officials in dispute resolution panels have admitted to falsifying training records.
“Our employees’ safety is a primary concern for us, and the Postal Service has established a Heat Illness Prevention Program for all employees nationwide,” stated Darlene Casey, spokesperson for USPS. “All employees in every facility are required to complete an annual training course on heat stress.”
Following the publication of the story on POLITICO’s website, the USPS released a statement from their public relations director, Dave Partenheimer, for the first time admitting that “in a few cases, proper procedures were not adhered to.” He also stated that when the USPS becomes aware of any instances where proper protocol or policy was not followed, they take immediate and appropriate measures to rectify the situation.
There is currently a debate surrounding the Postal Service’s need to deliver mail faster in order to keep up with competitors like Amazon and other shipping companies. However, with the effects of climate change causing hotter and more humid summers, there is a conflict between the desire for speed and the importance of safety. The Postal Service has instructed carriers to take breaks during extreme heat, but has also reprimanded them for not completing their routes quickly enough.
Warmer than the temperature outside.
Federal data analyzed by E&E News shows that heat exhaustion and the more severe heat stroke have caused more harm to Postal Service employees than car accidents or animal bites.
From January 2014, the Postal Service has documented 1,176 workplace injuries to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Heat-related illnesses accounted for 14 percent of these injuries, ranking as the second most common cause after slips or falls.
In October, the Texas Observer initially revealed the accusations of fraudulent heat records in Texas.
The Postal Service did not provide any answers regarding the numerous OSHA investigations into their neglect to properly train carriers.
hadn’t received proper training
Postal safety supervisors have addressed OSHA’s inquiries regarding fabricated training documents. One supervisor reported to OSHA that employees at a post office in Hurricane, Utah did not receive adequate training.had received trainingmonthspreadsheet of heat training
The dates included in the letter and acquired by E&E News reveal that only three workers, including the postmaster, were trained prior to the April 1st deadline. The remaining 23 employees did not receive training until the end of June, following the widely publicized death of Gates in Dallas.
A carrier from Utah, who requested anonymity due to job security concerns, stated that the training in June was inadequate. No quiz was administered after the video.
However, DeAnna Hernandez, the manager in charge of postal safety, stated to OSHA, “The Postal Service is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities in maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.”
Feeling lightheaded, he suddenly found himself on the ground.
Eddie Davidson, who serves as the elected union leader for Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas, stated that the absence of proper training has put the health of letter carriers at risk. In his division, there have been twenty-four grievances filed due to falsified training records. One example is a courier who, according to their personnel file, was trained at a post office where they do not actually work, with the training allegedly taking place at 2 a.m.
Davidson reported that approximately eight postal workers in the four-state area experienced heat-related ailments during the summer of 2023. He also noted that nearly all of them lacked proper training, despite their records indicating otherwise.
A mail carrier in Fort Walton Beach, Florida was hospitalized for heat exhaustion in July after feeling nauseous and disoriented while delivering mail.according to a union injury report
While on his journey, he accidentally found himself at a fire station. The firefighters there immediately began administering fluids through an IV to help him rehydrate.
A correspondence that was mailed several months after initial reports of falsification. “The [Heat Illness Prevention Program] advises carriers to take extra breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area if necessary.”
The passing of Gates in Dallas has heightened the dangers faced by letter carriers who work in extreme heat. Members of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee are addressing this issue.recently pressed DeJoy
The postmaster general was asked why Texas couriers start their routes at 8 a.m. during heat waves instead of starting earlier when the temperature is cooler.
The President of the Lone Star Branch in Dallas, Kimetra Lewis, stated that the Postal Service has agreed to start deliveries at 7:30 a.m.
However, it seems that the most significant teachings from Gates’ passing were not long-lasting in Texas.
Only 10 days following his passing, managers at the Oak Lawn Post Office in Dallas issued a communication to their delivery personnel, encouraging them to work more quickly and refrain from taking breaks during a period of high temperatures.
“Defeat the hot weather! No standing events,” it stated. “Stay active!”
An earlier edition of this article was initially published in E&E News’ Climatewire.
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