OSHA fines US Postal Service after employee's heat-related death

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - The U.S. Postal Service Truman Station in Independence received a citation from the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a mail carrier died while working for the station.

John Watzlawick, 57, collapsed and died while delivering mail in the blistering heat of July. His wife said he had asked to go home early on Monday, but was told he could not.

The citation, announced Monday, was for a willful violation for failing to protect employees working in excessive heat. OSHA began an investigation after Watzlawick's death.

"This tragedy underscores the need for employers to take proactive steps to keep workers safe in extreme heat," said Charles Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City in a statement released Monday. "If this employer had trained workers in recognizing the symptoms of heat stroke, and taken precautions to ensure workers had access to water, rest and shade, this unfortunate incident may have been avoided."

The violation addressed the strain put on people required to work during periods of excessive heat. According to OSHA, a willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements.

OSHA proposed a $70,000 penalty for the violation. The Postal Service has 15 days to respond to the violation.

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