Online business is booming, and these days, you can get just about anything delivered right to your door within a day or two of placing an order. But how often do you actually see the person who delivers it? Unless a signature is required, the delivery driver is usually back in their truck and onto the next stop before you answer the door. We rely on delivery drivers more and more every day, rain or shine, and most of us may not consider their job particularly dangerous. However, during the long San Diego summers, when the temperature regularly reaches triple digits in some parts of the County, delivery drivers are at risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
UPS and USPS Delivery Drivers
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), any employee who performs strenuous physical activities in hot conditions is at risk for heat-related illnesses. Delivery drivers work long hard hours lifting heavy packages, many driving trucks without air conditioning.
In July of this year, one news organization mailed temperature-reading devices by way of UPS packages to Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Columbia, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; and Bakersfield, California. All of the devices registered in the triple digits while inside the delivery trucks.
The same news organization tallied 107 heat-related hospitalizations of UPS workers in a four-year period, and 78 of those were delivery drivers. USPS mail carriers are at risk as well. From January 2015 to October 2018, at least 93 postal employees were hospitalized for heat-related illness. In all likelihood, however, those numbers are just a fraction of the total number of heat-related illnesses suffered by delivery drivers. Companies are only required to report these illnesses if the worker dies or is hospitalized. Like other work-related injuries, many more go unreported for fear of retaliation or job loss.
Why many delivery drivers don’t report their heat-related illnesses
UPS is one of the highest paying delivery companies in the country, and it enables workers without college degrees to make up to $30 an hour or more. After decades-long careers, some UPS delivery drivers make as much as $75K per year. The benefits are good as well. But because jobs like this are hard to come by for workers without college degrees, many feel uncomfortable complaining about conditions, reporting illnesses, or even taking the time to rest when the heat begins to take its toll on their bodies.
UPS drivers, in particular, are trained to have a sense of urgency. Sensors in the truck and the hand-held devices they carry monitor everything they do. The data is then compiled and used to create time-saving tricks to maximize profits. For example, UPS drivers are taught to buckle their seatbelt with one hand and start the truck with the other. They often run to and from their truck to deliver packages, and that urgency doesn’t go away just because the temperatures are soaring.
Symptoms of heat-related illnesses
Another reason some heat-related illnesses do not get reported is that workers may not think to connect their symptoms to the heat or know to seek medical attention for those symptoms. It’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps in particular.
These are serious heat-related illnesses that should be attended to right away:
Symptoms of heat stroke
Excessive sweating or hot, dry skin
High body temperature
Symptoms of heat exhaustion
Cool, moist skin
Nausea or vomiting
Rapid heart beat
Symptoms of heat cramps
Pain in abdomen, legs, or arms
If you or someone you work with is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s crucial to stop working; rest in the shade or cool area; cool off with water, ice packs, or cold compresses; and seek medical attention immediately.
Workers’ compensation for heat-related illness
The effects of heat stroke and heat exhaustion can last for days, and you should not be penalized for taking the time to recover. Labor laws are in place to protect your rights. If you do suffer from heat-related illness on the job, you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim for the cost of treatment and lost wages.
Unfortunately, your employer or claims administrator may argue that your condition was not caused by heat exposure on the job, and it could be difficult to prove that it was. The best way to ensure that you get the benefits you deserve is to work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Heat Exhaustion Attorneys for Workers' Compensation in Imperial County, CA and San Diego County
You work hard, and you deserve a lawyer who will work hard for you. At the Law Office of Gerald Brody & Associates, we’re committed to fighting for the rights of every single one of our clients. If you’ve suffered heat exhaustion on the job or heat stroke on the job, we can help. Call (619) 528-9800 for a free consultation today.