A temp agency for construction workers and a global waste management firm are being held responsible for the heat-related death of a sanitation worker who perished on his collection route in June.
Mark Jefferson, 47, of Trenton, first started showing signs of illness while he was working in Hopewell Borough at the Waste Management Inc. plant during a heat wave, authorities said. He died later at an area hospital.
Lack of Training, Water Cited
On Wednesday (Aug. 22), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Waste Management and Labor Ready Northeast Inc. of Ewing, NJ, for one serious violation each of OSHA’s general-duty clause in Jefferson’s death.
|OSHA has refused to develop a standard related to worker heat exposure, but the agency offers a range of resources, in English and Spanish, on the topic.|
OSHA said the two companies had failed to ensure that sanitation workers performing trash collection during heat waves drank enough fluids and to properly train employees on recognizing and responding to signs of heat stress.
Each company was fined $7,000, the maximum for a serious violation. Serious violations are those that carry a substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard about which an employer knew, or ought to have known.
Labor Ready Northeast provides temporary manual laborers to small- and mid-size businesses in a variety of industries. Waste Management provides residential and commercial trash collection services throughout the country.
The companies have 15 days to comply with or contest the citations.
“This tragedy underscores how critical it is for employers to ensure that workers have frequent access to water, rest and shade to prevent heat illness and injuries during the hot summer months, and also why it is important that workers know how to recognize and respond to the signs of heat-related illness,” said Paula Dixon-Roderick, director of OSHA’s Marlton Area Office.
OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish, as well as a training curriculum and a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites.
The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level.
…But No Standard
Nevertheless, OSHA has declined for 40 years to develop a specific rule to protect workers from extreme heat—a stance that has drawn criticism from worker advocates. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) first recommended a heat standard in 1972.
OSHA’s latest rejection of the idea came last month in response to a September 2011 petition by several advocacy and labor groups, who called for a new heat standard.
The petitioners say 563 workers have died and 46,000 have suffered serious injuries from heat-related conditions over the past 20 years.
“We are asking for rest breaks in proportion to the temperature outside as well as employers being required to provide workers with a certain amount of water every hour,” said Dr. Sammy Almashat, a researcher with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “This does not require some sort of a technological breakthrough. It’s very easy and inexpensive.”