The Korea Herald


Costco worker dies due to excessive heat

By Kim So-yeon

Published : June 29, 2023 - 17:31

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Costco Wholesale (Herald DB) Costco Wholesale (Herald DB)

A 31-year-old worker at a Costco outlet in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, died of heatstroke after organizing shopping carts in the sweltering parking lot all-day last week, according to news reports Thursday.

The worker, surnamed Kim, was on duty since 11 a.m. last Wednesday. He had to collect some 200 shopping carts every hour and move them towards the store entrance.

He reported his unwell condition earlier in the day but was found collapsed at around 7 p.m. He was moved to a hospital but died of a pulmonary embolism due to heatstroke.

The high in Hanam reached 33 degrees Celsius that day, with the area under a heatwave advisory for the second consecutive day.

According to Kim’s text message sent to a colleague two days before his death, which was acquired by local broadcaster MBC, he complained that he had covered a total of 43,000 steps -- 26 kilometers -- during a single work shift lasting 10 hours.

The parking lot where he worked had an open structure, exposed to sunlight and external heat, without proper air conditioning or circulation.

According to occupational safety and health standards, employers must provide a shaded place to use during breaks for workers who work outdoors when they are directly exposed to hot weather.

The Costco employee rest lounge was located on the fifth floor. For Kim, who worked on the first floor, it took a total of 10 minutes to get to the lounge and back. He was allowed to take a 15-minute break every three hours.

Even though government guidelines state that outdoor workers be given a 10 to 15-minute break every hour during heatwave advisories, it appears that these guidelines are not strictly followed or enforced at the Costco store where Kim worked.