OSHA Cites Landscaper after 23-Year-Old Worker Succumbs to Fatal Heat Stroke

Crewman died after being hospitalized with a core body temperature above 108 degrees; OSHA has proposed penalties of $12,471

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Federal investigators cited an Indiana landscaping company Townsend Tree Service in the death of a 23-year-old 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, Ind., one serious citation following its investigation.

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.

"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

OSHA's Heat Safety Tool App is available to employers, employees and the public for free download on iPhones and Android phones.

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.