U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas said hes “deeply saddened” that a U.S. Postal Service carrier died in her mail truck in Woodland Hills on a scorching summer day and is “determined” it doesnt happen again.
“Postal Service trucks should have air-conditioning, especially in the San Fernando Valley, which is one of the hottest parts of (Los Angeles) County,” Cardenas, D-Panorama City, said in a statement.
Cardenas office has been in communication with the Postal Service about his concerns, he said. The congressman is also “looking into possible policy solutions moving forward” but did not specify what those could be.
“We must avoid the same awful tragedy happening in the future,” Cardenas said.
Los Angles County coroners officials said Monday that Peggy Frank, a mail carrier at the Woodland Hills Post Office for 28 years, died of hyperthermia, or overheating, on July 6. The North Hills resident was found unresponsive in her non-air-conditioned postal vehicle on a day that temperatures reached 117 degrees in Los Angeles Woodland Hills community.
Federal workplace-safety investigators launched a probe into the incident within days of Franks death. Employers are obligated to protect employees from any hazardous condition, including potential heat stress, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Cardenas comments came days after the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council, an advisory body that advocates for its community with Los Angeles City Hall, voted to request that all U.S. Postal Service vehicles be equipped with air conditioning “to prevent dangerous health conditions for the employees delivering the mail.”
Following a lively debate, the Neighborhood Council approved issuing a call to action to Cardenas, whom it hopes can introduce federal legislation, said George Thomas, president of the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council.
“What happened in Woodland Hills can happen in Van Nuys – it gets to be 120, 115 degrees,” Thomas said. “Theyre out delivering the mail and these trucks are not equipped with air conditioning units at all.”
Union officials say they are working with both the Postal Service and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement heat-safety measures “to better protect the nations letter carriers.”
Meanwhile, the Postal Service has been conducting research and doing tests as part of a multi-year effort to operate “a future class of delivery vehicles” with new technology that would accommodate different types of mail, increase safety, reduce emissions and save money, said Kim Frum, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Postal Headquarters.
Frum said the agency could not comment on future vehicle attributes. However, the Postal Service has said in documents that new vehicle prototypes “must have air conditioning/cooling systems sufficient to cool the operators torso area when seated in the driving position with the drivers window open.”
Thats so the air temperature at the operators torso keeps at or below 85 degrees when the outside temperature is 120 degrees, according to the documents. They also must contain integrated heating and defrosting systems.
Frum said she could not say when a final prototype would be selected. However, Trucks.com recently reported that it is expected to be sometime this year.
“Our goal is to obtain vehicles that will help us provide reliable and efficient delivery service for customers while meeting the needs of our employees to best do their jobs safely,” Frum has said.