OSHA proposes fine in wake of landscape worker’s death

osha-logoA landscaping company based in Muncie, Indiana, has been fined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration after one of its employees died of heat stroke only a few days after joining the company in July.

Tyler Halsey, a 23-year-old, was hospitalized July 22 with a core body temperature above 108 degrees after working more than nine hours in the sun in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. The heat index in Poplar Bluff that day reached 110 degrees. Halsey died the following day.

His employer, Townsend Tree Service Co. LLC, has been cited by OSHA with a violation categorized as “serious.” Following its investigation, the federal agency proposed a penalty of $12,471.

“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.”

Halsey’s death is one of 16 heat-related deaths that have occurred this year. It was only his fourth day on the job.

“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.

OSHA advises employers to train supervisors and employees on how to recognize symptoms of heat-induced illness and how to respond. Employees should drink water every 15 minutes, rest in the shade and wear light-colored clothing.

Townsend Tree Service has 15 business days to contest the citation and penalty for not having enough heat prevention and acclimatization programs.

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