OSHA cites Indiana company for heatstroke death of 23-year-old

October 12, 2016 -  By

OSHA_150Federal investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited an Indiana landscaping company, Townsend Tree Service, for the heatstroke death of a 23-year-old crewmember, according to an OSHA document. The death is one of 16 heat-related deaths reported to OSHA in 2016.

On July 22, Tyler Halsey was part of a three-man crew trimming trees near Poplar Bluff, Mo., according to KFVS12.com. The heat index soared above 110 degrees F. Only his fourth day on the job, the employee collapsed after working more than nine hours in direct sunlight.

“A review of heat-related deaths across industries finds most workers were new to the job and not physically used to the constant heat and sun exposure,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Kansas City.

He was hospitalized with a core temperature of more than 108 degrees Fahrenheit and died July 23. According to his mother, Tammy Kennedy, Halsey suffered from mental illness. His new job gave him a sense of purpose.

“I just remember him standing in the doorway to my room with his vest on, and his stuff all ready to go, and he was happy,” Kennedy told KFVS12.com “He was so excited to be out there.”

OSHA cited Townsend Tree Service of Muncie, Ind., with a serious violation—which “exists when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm, unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation.” OSHA purposed penalties of $12,471. After receiving a citation, the company has 15 days to comply, request an “informal conference with OSHA’s area director” or contest the purposed penalties.

“Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable when employers help workers acclimate to hot environments, allow frequent water breaks, ample time to rest and provide shade,” said Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St. Louis. “Working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers must keep this in mind and plan additional precautions for working in these conditions.”

Kennedy hopes her son’s death can serve as a lesson to others in the field.

“If you feel like you are not acting right or feeling right—stop,” Kennedy said.

OSHA also released the following recommendations to prevent heat-related illness and death:

  • Train supervisors and other employees in the proper response to employees reporting heat-induced illness symptoms, which includes stopping work, moving to a cool place and providing help, evaluation and medical assistance.
  • Require trained supervisors to go into the field and conduct in-person evaluations of employees complaining of heat-induced symptoms.
  • Establish work rules and practices that encourage employees to seek assistance and evaluation when experiencing heat stress symptoms.

For more information and tips, download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool app, available for free on iPhones and Android phones, or download this fact sheet on protecting workers from heat stress.

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Dillon Stewart

About the Author:

Dillon Stewart graduated from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, earning a Bachelor of Science in Online Journalism with specializations in business and political science. Stewart is a former associate editor of LM.

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