Workplace issues

Enforcing heat safety rules

Here are some resources for enforcement of heat safety rules.

Background: On July 24, 2012, Brother John Watzlawick, an Independence, MO, letter carrier, lost his life as a direct result of heat illness. An extensive investigation was conducted by OSHA and the office of Region 5 National Business Agent Dan Pittman. On Dec. 12, 2012, OSHA issued a citation (Inspection #538158) labeled as "Willful" (click here for a copy).

USPS challenged the citation. A trial was scheduled before Judge Peggy Ball of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in February of 2014. A decision was issued by Judge Ball on Sept. 10, 2014 (copy of decision).

In May of 2015, the Postal Service and NALC bargained the “Heat Abatement Program” for the Independence, MO post office (M-01860). Carriers have asked a number of questions about M-01860 and its application outside the Independence post office. Please see this July 2, 2015, document for NALC's official position on the relevance of M-01860 outside of Independence (copy of letter).

Heat safety training material

OSHA has prepared a 41-page “All in One Heat Guide” that you can download by clicking here. The first page of the guide advises as follows:

OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in hot environments. Nonetheless, under the OSH Act, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards. This guide helps employers and worksite supervisors prepare and implement hot weather plans. It explains how to use the heat index to determine when extra precautions are needed at a worksite to protect workers from environmental contributions to heat-related illness. Workers performing strenuous activity, workers using heavy or non-breathable protective clothing, and workers who are new to an outdoor job need additional precautions beyond those warranted by heat index alone.

In addition to the above training material provided by OSHA, the USPS has issued a number of instructions as follows:

In May of 2014, the USPS distributed a Mandatory Stand-up Talk for Supervisors, which required that they train themselves on heat safety, train their employees, monitor the weather, acclimate employees to the heat and have a plan in place to respond to the needs of employees during heat advisories.

On May, 8, 2015, the USPS issued a Mandatory Safety Talk titled “Beat the Heat, Stay Cool.”.

The May 28, 2015 Postal Bulletin 22416 and the July 23, 2015 Postal Bulletin 22420 include a heat safety message.

In the event that a shop steward or branch officer wishes to investigate management action (or lack of action) related to a heat abatement program in your office, you may use this form to request information.

Smartphone heat safety tool: NALC recommends that all letter carriers download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool (an app for Android devices and iPhones) to their smartphones. The app includes a quick way to calculate the heat index and see appropriate protective measures that should be taken before someone gets hurt. Download Heat Safety Tool for smartphones here.

Filing an OSHA complaint: In the event that you feel it necessary to file a complaint with OSHA over management’s failure to protect letter carriers in your office from the harm of extreme heat, click here to see your options on how to file.

Anti-retaliation: The Occupational Safety and Health Act, at Section 11 (c), mandates that

No person shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding or because of the exercise by such employee on behalf of himself or others of any right afforded by this Act.

If you believe that management has retaliated against you, you have the right to file a whistleblower complaint within the 30-day time limit provided for postal employees. All of the information necessary to file a whistleblower complaint can be found here

For immediate assistance: To assist you on issues involving heat safety, please send an e-mail to NALC Director of Safety and Health Manuel Peralta at the following address:

In your e-mail, please identify yourself by name and position held (letter carrier, shop steward or title of union position held) along with identification of your work location (station, city and state) and contact information (cell number and e-mail address) so that we may begin to assist you as soon as possible.

Additionally, you may download this “Initial Heat Injury Report” form, fill it out, and send a copy of it to Director Peralta.