September 27, 2016
Landscaping company cited after 23-year-old worker
succumbs to fatal heat stroke in 110-degree weather
Employee hospitalized with a body core temperature over 108 degrees
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - Federal investigators have cited an Indiana landscaping company in the death of a 23-year-old ground crewman who died after being hospitalized with a core body temperature above 108 degrees. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators determined the employee collapsed after working more than nine hours in the direct sun when the heat index soared to 110 degrees near Poplar Bluff on July 22, 2016. His is one of 16 heat-related deaths reported to the OSHA since January 2016.
On Sept. 20, 2016, OSHA issued his employer Townsend Tree Service Company LLC of Muncie, Indiana, one serious citation following its investigation.
"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."
The agency has found a lack of heat prevention and acclimatization programs by employers commonly lead to heat-related deaths and illness among workers.
"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. "While the fall season may lower outdoor temperatures, employers and employees alike must remember that those working indoors in factories, bakeries and other heated environments are at-risk of heat-related illness."
In addition to acclimating workers to heat conditions OSHA also recommends employers:
- 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.
Commonly, people believe mistakenly that if they are sweating, they are not in danger of heat stroke. In fact, sweating is no indication that heat stroke is possible. One frequent symptom of heat stroke is mental changes, such as confusion or irritability. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If there is any suggestion of heat stroke, call 911 and institute the other safety measures as quickly as possible. To learn more about heat-stress symptoms see OSHA's Heat Stress Quick Card http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3154.pdf
OSHA's Heat Safety Tool App is available to employers, employees and the public for free download on iPhones and Android phones.
OSHA has proposed penalties of $12,471. View current citations here.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's St. Louis Area Office at 314-425-4249.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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Townsend Tree Service
- Major investor-owned utilities, municipal systems and electric cooperatives
- Pipeline companies
- State Departments of Transportation.
- Utility, pipeline and transportation line clearing, maintenance and growth control
- Drainage and right-of-way clearing, maintenance, and growth control
- Storm and disaster emergency response
- Chemical and herbicide applications
With the use of modern IVM techniques and advanced herbicides that target invasive species, Townsend provides the best in habitat management. With our research partners, Townsend helps redefine right of way stewardship, producing benefits like improved motorist safety, better service crew access, lower maintenance costs, improved drainage and enhanced aesthetics.
Townsend Tree Service is one of the largest companies in the country specializing in tree-trimming services. With over 4000 equipment assets, the company is focused on performing right-of-way tree-trimming and line clearing services in more than 30 states.
Clients include investor-owned electric utilities, rural electric cooperatives, municipal systems, pipeline companies and other companies with similar clearance issues.
Crews from Townsend Tree Service are also well-trained and experienced in storm restoration activities requiring fast response to natural disasters such as hurricanes, ice storms and major wind storms. ============
Mom speaks out after son overheats, dies while working outside
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Tyler Halsey was working on the ground, flagging traffic, chipping limbs and stacking brush during tree trimming work near Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
He became overheated at around 4:30 p.m. when the heat index reached about 110 degrees.
According to OSHA, Tyler had been in the heat since his shift started at around 7 a.m. He was hospitalized with a core temperature of more than 108 degrees and died on Saturday, July 23.
OSHA stated the employee died on his fourth day working for Townsend Tree Service of Muncie, Indiana.
Tammy Kennedy said her son was ecstatic about his new job as a tree trimmer.
“He just walked tall. He was walking taller," Kennedy said.
She said Tyler was looking for a job for quite some time.
According to Kennedy, Halsey battled with mental illness, and this job gave him a sense of being one of the guys.
“When he found out he got the job he was like – let’s go get this..I need a lunchbox, and I need everything. He was so excited to be out there," said Kennedy.
His friend got him the job at Townsend Tree Service.
They say the Dexter, Mo. resident was part of a three-man crew that was trimming trees along overhead power lines.
“He was drinking. He had his jug. I know he was tired because he wasn’t used to all the work," Kennedy said.
"A review of heat-related deaths revealed the majority of workers had just started the job, and frequently it was their first day on the job and the workers were not acclimated to the constant exposure to the heat and sun," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo.
“People can’t go 90 to nothing for 10 hours when they haven’t really ever had to do that before," Kennedy said.
She hopes her son’s death can help others remember to take care of themselves in the field.
“If you feel like you are not acting right or feeling right – stop," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said she remembers the last day he went to work.
With temperatures expected to continue well into the 90s and the 100s for the next several days throughout much of the nation, OSHA is reminding employers to protect workers that may be exposed to extreme heat while working outdoors or in hot indoor environments.
OSHA released the following tips to prevent heat-related illness and deaths:
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty
- Rest in the shade to cool down
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency
- Keep an eye on fellow workers
- "Easy does it" on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it
Those employed in hot indoor environments such as firefighters, bakers, factory and boiler room workers are also at risk when temperatures rise.