The Heat Stress Tragedy of Juan Jose Soriano
Juan Jose Soriano, a 44-year-old father of 5, worked for several hours in humid 100°F (38°C) heat before telling his crew leader that he didn’t feel well. Soriano was given some water, driven back to the workers’ housing area and left alone to rest.
About 45 minutes later, he was discovered unconscious outside. Soriano was pronounced dead from heat stroke at a local hospital. His core body temperature was 108°F (42°C), well above normal body temperature of 98.6°F (37°C).
A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigation found that workers at the tobacco farm toiled for exceptionally long hours. They were allowed a one-hour mid-morning break, during which they were offered soda and crackers. A one-hour lunch break was their last of the day.
Workers took their breaks in a shaded area, where soda, sports drinks and water were always available. Although worker housing met all the housing requirements of the Migrant Housing Act of North Carolina, there were no fans or air-conditioning.
What Went Wrong
Although the conditions were harsh, appropriate heat stress prevention might have prevented the series of mistakes that ultimately cost Mr. Soriano his life:
“In this incident, the worker complained of not feeling well, but instead of receiving medical attention, he was left alone to rest,” states the NIOSH investigation report. “Heat stroke is a life-threatening illness, and medical care must be administered immediately to prevent permanent disability or death.”
Use SafetySmart Compliance’s Heat Stress Compliance Plan to make sure none of your own workers suffers the fate of an Anthony Dalton or Joseph Christopher Jolley. The Compliance Plan explains your OSHA heat stress liability risks and the 9 ways to manage them: