Delivery workers across the country are sounding alarm bells about the deadly risks they face in extreme heat. According to a recent report by the New York Times, hundreds of drivers for UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service “have been sickened and in many cases hospitalized from heat exposure” since 2015, a figure that union representatives suspect is an underestimate due to under-reporting. In the six weeks preceding that report, a representative for a Texas branch of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters told the Times, “18 of about 9,500 workers in his jurisdiction had become sickened by heat.”
As the Times notes, while drivers in every delivery company face risks from rising heat, media reports have given particularly scrutiny to UPS, whose delivery trucks lack air conditioning. The report opens with the story of Nick Gubell, a 26-year-old Long Island driver who pulled over towards the end of his shift on a day in the high-80s, “panting and barely able to speak.” Paramedics took him to a local hospital after placing ice packs on his body to cool him down. His experience was not isolated. “Since 2015, at least 270 UPS and United States Postal Service drivers have been sickened and in many cases hospitalized from heat exposure,” the Times states, citing records kept by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Scientists suggest that the problem will only increase as the global climate warms, leading to longer heat waves that occur more often.
In some respects, Gubell’s experience was a relatively lucky one. In the last several years, multiple UPS delivery workers have died on the job from heat-related causes, including one who lost his life while making deliveries in California and another who “was found dead in the company’s parking lot.” UPS defended itself in a statement to the Times, asserting that “The health and safety of our employees is our highest priority,” and noting its practice of “providing workers with additional water, ice, electrolyte replacement beverages and fruit.” It also said it would “accelerate” efforts to install fans in its delivery trucks. More information about the risks UPS workers face from extreme heat is available via the New York Times report.