An international shipping and logistics business was issued a five-figure fine in late September after federal regulators discovered an employee making deliveries had to receive care from a local hospital after suffering medical issues due to extreme temperatures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation that determined the business had failed to keep workers safe from exposure to outdoor heat hazards, EHS Today reported.
The fine is notable because it is tied to heat exposure, which has seen increased attention from a variety of individuals and organizations, including worker safety activists and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. It's also an example of how OSHA, despite not having a comprehensive heat safety standard in place, can and will act if employers expose workers to heat-related risks.
"The shipping and logistics company faces a $13,260 penalty following the OSHA investigation."
The shipping and logistics company faces a $13,260 penalty following the OSHA investigation. While not as high as the six-figure charges the federal health and safety regulator has issued in recent years since updating its fine schedule, the violation tied to failure to protect workers from heat hazards is significant for another reason. The business reported more than 100 heat-related hospitalizations since 2015, according to NBC News, but this is the first time in that period that OHSA has issued a fine related to heat exposure. NBC pointed out that the business doesn't use climate control technology in many of its delivery vehicles and warehouses, which may increase the risk of heat exposure for workers.
"Employers must take proper precautions when employees work outdoors in excessive heat conditions, and ensure they receive prompt medical attention when exhibiting signs of heat-related illness," said Condell Eastmond, OSHA Area Director for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in a press release from the organization.
As is the case with all OSHA fines, the business has three options to respond to the sanction and must make this choice within 15 business days: Pay the fine and make any required changes, request an informal conference with the regional OSHA office or contest the results of the investigation with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Despite the lack of an overarching heat standard, businesses need to take their responsibility for worker safety seriously when it comes to managing heat exposure, both inside and outdoors.