US postal worker collapses and dies on the job during extreme heat in Dallas

Nearly 70 per cent of US Postal Service vehicles do not have air conditioning

Graig Graziosi,Louise Boyle
Thursday 22 June 2023 20:25 BST

Related video: President Joe Biden Announces Major Climate Initiative

A postal worker has collapsed and died while delivering mail in Dallas, Texas, during an extreme heatwave, according to the US Postal Service (USPS).

Eugene Gates Jr, 66, was going door-to-door on his route on Tuesday when the heat index reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in the city. He collapsed in a front yard, where he was found by a homeowner who attempted CPR.

Mr Gates Jr’s cause of death has not been determined. On Tuesday, an excessive heat warning was issued for Dallas-Fort Worth region by the National Weather Service (NWS).

Texas, and other southern states, are experiencing a severe heatwave this week with temperatures soaring into the triple digits and breaking records in places.

The heat index is the real-world feel of extreme heat, combining both temperature and humidity.

A heat index of 115F is considered a “dangerous” level, according to NWS. Prolonged exposure to such extreme conditions can result in heat exhaustion, heat stroke and potentially death, according to the NWS.

"The Postal Service is deeply saddened by the loss of life suffered yesterday involving a Lakewood Post Office Letter Carrier," the federal agency said in a statement.

"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time."

Neighbors told local TV station Fox 4 that Mr Gates Jr "loved his job" and "loved the neighbors."

At least 270 postal workers have fallen ill or have been hospitalized due to heat exposure since 2015, according to the US Department of Labor.

Approximately 70 per cent of the 230,000 federal postal vehicles on the road did not have AC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported last year.

United Parcel Service (UPS), a private company, announced earlier this year that it would begin installing air conditioning in its vehicles after negotiations with union leaders.USA Today reported.

A bill has been introduced to Congress requiring that postal vehicles have air conditioning. The legislation is titled the Peggy Frank Memorial Act in honor of another USPS employee who died from heat exhaustion in 2018 while running her route on a 117F day in California. The bill is yet to be passed.

The heatwave is expected to persist across parts of the south into next week, NWS reported. In south and west Texas, temperatures soared into the triple digits. San Angelo hit an all-time high of 114F on Tuesday, NWS reported.

Combined with the humidity, temperatures will feel like 120F across parts of Texas, a dangerously high level for human health.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which provides power for most of the state’s 30 million people, asked residents to conserve electricity this week to prevent blackouts. Texas set an unofficial June record on Monday for energy demand.

The Lone Star State’s grid has been watched warily since a severe winter storm in February 2021 knocked out the power for days and left 137 people dead.

The climate crisis is having a direct and extreme impact on heatwaves that scientists expect to continue as the global average temperature continues to rise. Global heating currently causes rare heat waves to be 3 -5F warmer across most of the US, according to Climate Signals.

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