Workplaces have a duty to keep employees safe from potential hazards. Unfortunately for Gabriel Infante and Eugene Gates in Texas, their workplaces turned into deadly environments. Extreme heat, a danger often overlooked, became the fatal factor for these men. It wasn’t a random accident either– but a preventable tragedy.
This raises serious questions about the responsibility of employers to provide adequate heat safety measures for their workers.
Heat protective measures
Staying safe in heat involves smart preparation. Employers can take simple steps to protect workers when temperatures soar. These include:
- Adjusting work hours to avoid peak heat times (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Providing frequent rest and water breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas
- Supplying suitable heat-protective clothing, like hats and light clothing
However, stating these precautions is one thing; enforcing them is another. For instance, Gates’ employer, The U.S. Postal Service, claimed to provide “mandatory heat-related and other safety training.” Yet Gates died on a scorching day in Dallas, raising questions about the adequacy and enforcement of these protections.
The right to work safely
Every worker has the right to a safe workplace. This is especially important in hot conditions like those that led to Gates’s and Infante’s tragic death. For employers, this means more than just providing safety training. They must ensure that the safety measures are followed and that their workers are protected. If not, and if the court can directly link their lack of implementation of safety measures to a worker’s death, employers could face serious legal consequences, such as a wrongful death claim.
When it comes to heat safety, employers, take note: it’s not just about being humane – it’s a legal obligation. Keeping workers safe isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a duty under the law.