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OSHA opens investigation into death of Medford postal worker who collapsed in the heat

Posted by Jarret Bencks  July 8, 2013 04:59 PM

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is opening an investigation into the circumstances of the death of a postal worker who collapsed on the job in Medford Friday, a spokesmen for the Department of Labor said Monday. 

James Baldassarre, 45, collapsed near the Hyatt Place Hotel on Riverside Avenue about 5:40 p.m. Friday and was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where he later died, according to postal service and Medford Fire Department officials. A witness called 911 after seeing Baldassarre fall to the ground, Medford fire Deputy Chief Scott Graham said.

A 24-year veteran of the US Postal Service, Baldassarre had complained to his wife about the heat earlier in the day.

Baldassarre was a utility carrier working out of the Medford Post Office, and he was working a delivery route he was familiar with at the time he collapsed, postal service spokeswoman Melissa Lohnes said.

Temperatures peaked at 95 degrees on Friday with an average relative humidity of 62 percent, according to the National Weather Service.

Baldassarre's wife, Cathy, told WCVB news that her husband had jokingly texted her during the day, complaining about the heat.

"I have a bunch of texts from Jimmy all day long, saying, 'I'm going to die out here today. It's so hot,'" she told the station.

The postal service continued to investigate the circumstances of Baldassarre's death Monday, Lohnes said.

"Right now we're trying to put all the pieces together to see what happened," she said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified of the death by the Postal Service, and its Andover office is opening its own review of Baldassarre's death, according to Department of Labor spokesman Ted Fitzgerald.

The incident has prompted the Massachusetts Coalition for Safety and Health to call for standards to protect workers from the heat.

“This tragic accident should signal the need for more protective measures,” Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the organization's executive director, said in a statement. “In particular, OSHA should enact a federal standard that protects workers – both indoor and outdoor – from heat illnesses. The standard should include mandatory rest breaks and access to sufficient water and shade.”

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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