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labor Worker Dies of Heat Stroke 6 Days After Texas Governor Signs Bill Repealing Heat Protections

Freedom from regulation is more important than human life.

Photo of a weather announcer in front of a map of the U.S. with temperature readings
Less than a week after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that will repeal measures in Austin and Dallas to protect workers against heat related illness, a worker has died in Texas from heat stroke.,

Utility lineman dies while helping restore power to Texas residents following storms

MARSHALL, Texas (KLTV/Gray News) – Officials say a utility lineman from West Virginia working to restore power in Texas has died.

KLTV reports that the 35-year-old lineman, whose name was not immediately released, was working with Appalachian Power to restore electricity to the Marshall area after last week’s storms.

According to Harrison County Justice of the Peace John Oswalt, the worker’s death has been attributed to heat-related causes.

Oswalt said the man had been working with his crew in the heat on Monday and told the group that he wasn’t feeling well once they returned to their motel.

Austin and Dallas require rest breaks and water for construction workers to protect them against heat illness. The “Death Star” bill will repeal those protections on September 1 because, according to the bill’s sponsors, Texas businesses are unable to deal with a “hodgepodge” of different requirements in different cities.

Conditions: Danger

Like today, the temperature in Marshall was 93 degrees, but felt like 100 when humidity is factored in.  If you look up the heat index on the handy OSHA/NIOSH Heat App, you will find that “Conditions are Dangerous.”  That same day, North Texas saw a heat index of 116 degrees, and the National Weather Service (NWS) estimated the index peaking on Tuesday to 114 degrees.

The app doesn’t just warn workers of danger, it also tells them what employers should do to protect workers, including rescheduling all nonessential work for when the heat index is lower, providing adequate amounts of drinking water, rest and shade, emergency response procedures and training.

The precautions also remind employers to watch out for heat-related illness by checking workers’  heart rates and setting up a buddy system to enable workers to look out for signs and symptoms of heat related illness in others.

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Could the worker’s life have been saved had managers and workers been trained, and had an emergency response system been set up to send the worker to the hospital after showing signs of heat stroke?

Maybe. According to another report, after feeling ill, the worker received some type of unspecified “medical treatment” and was sent home.

The man reportedly drank water, took a shower, and fell asleep in his hotel room in Marshall, located east of Dallas and roughly 20 miles shy of the Texas-Louisiana border…. The man’s roommate attempted to wake up the man, who was found unresponsive on the floor when the roommate returned from his shift. EMTs also attempted to revive him, but the man, who has not been named at this time, was pronounced dead at the scene.

OSHA’s heat app warns that if a worker shows sign of heat stroke, “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY: CALL 911.”  Even for Heat Exhaustion, the app says to “Take the worker to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment.”

Protect Workers’ Lives

I realize that the lineman would not have been covered by the specific protections that Abbott’s bill will repeal. He wasn’t covered by the protections issued in Austin or Dallas and the Death Star bill doesn’t become effective until September 1.

But a reasonable legislator or Governor might have said to themselves, “Hey, maybe instead of dragging Austin and Dallas back to the low standards that are killing workers in the rest of the state, we should save lives by bringing the rest of the state up to the standards of Austin and Dallas.”

But no. Because for Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans, freedom from regulation is more important than human life

OSHA heat illness guidance can be found here.


Shortly after posting, I ran across this. Another heat-related death in Texas?

Postal worker collapses, dies while working during excessive heat warning

DALLAS (KWTX/Gray News) – A Postal Service worker has died in Texas while delivering mail during an excessive heat warning.

KWTX reports that 66-year-old Eugene Gates died on Tuesday while out working for the U.S. Postal Service.

Gates reportedly collapsed in the front yard of a home, and a neighbor performed CPR on him. However, the 66-year-old did not survive.

The agency shared the following statement:

The Lakewood area is a neighborhood located about eight miles outside of downtown Dallas.

According to the National Weather Service, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was under an excessive heat warning on Tuesday as the heat index was as high as 112 degrees.