USPS Is Making Changes to Mail Delivery Amid Record-Breaking Heat
Depending on where you live, you can expect some changes to your regular delivery schedule.
Those in the southern part of the U.S. are dealing with significantly more heat than they're accustomed to. Temperatures are up to 20 degrees higher than normal for residents in Texas, the Gulf Coast states, Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas, The New York Times reported—and the record-breaking heat isn't likely to let up for the July 4th weekend. The ongoing heat wave is not only uncomfortable, but also dangerous, having already led to several deaths over the past week. Now, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is making changes to mail delivery amid this extreme heat. Read on to find out how the USPS is switching up its schedule.
READ THIS NEXT: USPS Is Making These Changes to Your Mail.
A letter carrier died while delivering mail.
On June 20, 66-year-old USPS letter carrier Eugene Gates Jr. collapsed while on his route in Dallas, Texas. A homeowner attempted to perform CPR, but after the mail carrier was taken to the hospital, he was pronounced dead, The Dallas Morning News reported.
According to ABC-affiliate WFFA, Gates' death is thought to be heat-related, but as of June 27, that had yet to be confirmed. The outlet also reported that when Gates collapsed at 3 p.m., the heat index was 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We're still in kind of limbo as to the exact cause of death, but we know it was extremely hot on the day that Eugene passed," Kimetra Lewis, the Lonestar Branch 132 President of the National Association of Letter Carriers, told Fox 4.
But while an official cause of death hasn't been announced, Lewis confirmed that as of Monday, June 26, carriers in the area have a revised schedule.
Start times are now an hour earlier.
With the ongoing heat wave, Lewis said that USPS letter carriers from the Lakewood, Texas, office (Gates' location) are now starting at 7:30 a.m. as opposed to 8:30 a.m. This followed a back-and-forth between Lewis and USPS management, until the earlier start time was eventually confirmed.
Postal workers sent Fox 4 photos of a flyer posted at their place of work, which announced the 7:30 a.m. start and instructed carriers to contact management if unable to make that time work. Initially, only letter carriers in Lakewood were starting earlier, but Lewis later told Fox 4 that this change is statewide.
When Best Life reached out to USPS for confirmation, a spokesperson did not have any further information to provide on the topic.
"Carriers are really, you know, they're a little terrified about having to work out in the elements that we're faced with here in Dallas and in the whole Metroplex," Lewis told Fox 4. "Letter carriers are concerned about being out there when it's at the highest point of the day. And it has, and that's their biggest concern."
Gates' widow still has concerns.
Speaking with WFAA, Gates' widow, Carla Gates, talked about her husband, who had been a mail carrier for almost 40 years. "If you came across his path, you would have never forgotten him," she told the outlet.
She went on to vocalize her frustration with the USPS—and her beliefs that the 7:30 a.m. start time won't be enough to keep postal workers safe.
"Am I angry at the Postal Service? Yes, I am. Am I mad at the Postal Service? Yes, I am," Carla said. "No one should be out working like that, no one. The mail will still be there, but my husband won't."
Carla told WFAA that her husband used to start work early, taking off at 6 a.m., which would be a better alternative "not just for the Postal Service, for anyone that is working out in this hot Texas weather outside, there's a death trap."
The USPS says safety is its top priority.
While first saying they didn't have additional information, the USPS did provide a statement to WFAA on Saturday, June 24.
"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 statement reads. "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."
The Postal Service added that all vehicles purchased since 2003 have air conditioning, and 34 percent of vehicles currently have air conditioning. However, Lewis was told the air conditioner in Gates' USPS vehicle was broken, multiple outlets reported. As it is the employee's responsibility to report malfunctioning AC, Lewis told WFAA she was looking into whether a repair ticket was filed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also opened an investigation into Gates' death, The Dallas Morning News reported.
"As temperatures continue to exceed dangerous levels in Texas and many parts of the country, employers need to act responsibly about their legal obligations to protect their workers from the well-known hazards of heat illness," OSHA told the outlet.