Summer is nearing its end, but not before breaking numerous heat records across the country.
The July land and ocean-surface temperature for the globe was 1.57 degrees F above the 20th-century average, making it the sixth-hottest July on record, according to NOAA.
The excessive heat is affecting UPS drivers, who claim they are being forced to work in the extreme conditions without adequate safety precautions.
“There [have] been times where I’ve asked myself, Can I do this today?'” said Eric Snodgrass, a UPS driver in Boulder, Colorado. “I’ve seen 115 [degree temperatures in the back of trucks] all the way up to 160. So, deadly temperatures, I’d say.”
Snodgrass has worked for UPS for 25 years. He says the heat he experiences throughout a normal shift has become dangerous with record temperatures recorded across the country this summer. However, he says when workers have asked for protection from the company, they have not come.
“I was sliding this 140-pound package, and as I stood the package up and I stood up with it, everything around me went black and light at the same time, and I started falling backwards and somebody had to catch me,” said Scott Andersen, a former UPS driver who recounts when he experienced heat stroke on the job. “I had to do some cardiovascular tests for two months after the event before I was cleared to work, and then, I had some lingering effects from it for little over a year.”
Andersen now works for the Teamsters, the union that represents more than 350,000 UPS workers nationwide.
In August, Teamsters demanded UPS show its plans to protect workers. In July, a 24-year-old UPS driver in Southern California died from heat stroke. Only a few weeks later, another driver in Arizona passed out on the job, and in late-August, a driver crashed into a restaurant after passing out behind the wheel.
“We need to have more drivers to get this work done so we can get the work day down, so they have more time to recover from the heat at night. We also need to have ice machines in every facility,” said Andersen.
The Teamsters says requests for air conditioning in trucks have not been granted by UPS, and only some drivers have been given fans.
In an emailed statement, UPS said it has distributed 260,000 new uniforms with wicking, dry-fit shirts and performance fabric shorts to its employees, made cooling towels available to drivers, and has sped up the installation of fans in UPS vehciles.