Family of deceased postal carrier believes she died of heat exhaustion; USPS cited for past heat-related deaths, injuries

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Updated Jul 13, 2018

The family of a woman who was found dead inside her mail truck in a Los Angeles neighborhood believes she died from excessive heat exposure.

Peggy Frank, 63, was found unresponsive in a USPS vehicle Friday afternoon in Woodland Hills where temperatures soared to a record 117 degrees.

Attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful. Though the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office has finished its autopsy, they have yet to release the cause of Frank’s death who reportedly had experienced heat stroke last May. The coroner’s office did not respond to an interview request.

Frank’s family told Fox11 that they believe she died of heat exhaustion. The temperature inside a USPS mail truck is 10 to 15 degrees higher than the outside air temperature, according to one of Frank’s co-workers.

“I want them to realize what it’s like and they need to do something,” Frank’s sister, Lynn Frank, said.

A USPS representative in Washington, D.C. released the following statement today regarding Frank’s death:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the employee’s family at this difficult time. The unfortunate incident involving this employee remains under investigation.  This includes the underlying cause(s) of the employee’s death.

 Our carriers deliver the mail throughout the year during varying temperatures and climatic conditions. This includes during the summer months when the temperatures rise throughout the country.  The safety of our employees is a top priority and the Postal Service has implemented a national Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) for all employees.  In connection with the HIPP, the Postal Service provides mandatory heat-related and other safety training and instruction to all employees and assures they have the resources needed to do their jobs safely. Carriers are reminded to ensure they’re hydrated, wear appropriate clothing, including hats, get in the shade whenever possible, and to take sufficient amounts of water and ice with them out on their routes.

USPS would not respond to questions regarding the type of vehicle Frank had been driving and whether or not her windows and doors were closed when she was found unresponsive on Friday. Frank’s co-worker at the Woodland Hills Post Office, Joni Hogan Salvatore, told the Los Angeles Daily News that carriers are required to keep their windows and doors closed as a matter of security. USPS would not confirm or deny if such a policy is practiced.

OSHA, which was not able to respond to interview requests prior to publication, lists the following citations on its website which were issued for USPS heat-related injuries and deaths going back to 2012.

10/05/2016 â€“ Region 7 OSHA News Release â€“ OSHA cites US Postal Service after two Des Moines workers suffer heat illness while delivering the mail

10/27/2015 â€“ Region 7 OSHA News Release â€“ Iowa postal facility exposes mail handler to excessive heat

12/16/2013 â€“ Region 1 OSHA News Release â€“ US Postal Service cited by US Labor Department’s OSHA after heat-related death of Medford, Mass., mail carrier in July heat wave

12/17/2012 â€“ Region 5 OSHA News Release â€“ US Labor Department’s OSHA cites US Postal Service for worker’s heat-related death in Independence, Mo.

The post office published the following tips for dealing with hot weather:

Prevent Heat Illness — Know the Signs and Act

Summertime can put employees at risk for heat illness. High temperatures and humidity, direct sun or heat, limited air movement, physical exertion, poor physical condition, and some medicines are contributing factors to heat illness.

When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, heat-induced illness such as heat stress, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke can quickly worsen and eventually cause death. Symptoms range from mild and easily correctable to severe and life-threatening, if not immediately addressed.

Many heat-related deaths are preventable when employees recognize the symptoms and know what to do. Watch out for these signs of heat illness: Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating;headaches; confusion or dizziness; nausea or vomiting; rapid pulse; muscle cramps;weakness or fatigue; and rashes.

Employees must immediately notify their supervisor and call 911 if they experience signs of heat-related illness. Employees can also be proactive and beat the heat with these tips:

1. Hydrate before, during, and after work. Prevention is important — drink at least 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes.

2. Dress appropriately for the weather. On warm days, wear light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing to keep your body temperature down.

3. Use the shade to stay cool. When possible, use shaded areas to stay out of direct sunlight.