Thin State Worker Freezes to Death in Air Conditioned Office
By Leslie Carp
Published May 21st, 2017
ALBANY — A Department of Financial Services accountant was found frozen solid in her cubicle Wednesday.
The ice-encrusted body of Dijon White, 33, was discovered in her office chair at 3:30 p.m., just 27 minutes before official state-worker quitting time. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
A dog lover who enjoyed distance running and salads, White’s passing marked the first air condition-related office death of 2017, state officials said.
Office air conditioning systems have historically favored sweaty obese men wearing wool suits, forcing petite men and women to dig out down jackets and heavy cardigan sweaters to survive the harsh arctic-like temperatures. While deaths are rare, it is not uncommon for frigid air-conditioned environments to claim fingertips, toes and tips of noses.
Friends said White maintained a body mass index of 19, which is considered a “healthy” weight. Her untimely death, meanwhile, has prompted an investigation into mandatory minimum temperatures for central air in state agency buildings. A cursory study has shown the average state agency office temperature in summer to be 51 degrees Fahrenheit, with a real feel of 31 degrees once wind chill from blowing air conditioning vents is factored in.
Other nations have taken steps to address this problem. After a Tokyo-area junior high school teacher lost eight fingers from frostbite in August, Japan launched the “Cool Biz” campaign, under which office air conditioners are turned to a balmy 82-degrees Fahrenheit, and workers are encouraged to wear short-sleeved shirts.
However, the discourse in the United States on this sensitive subject remains set on holding individuals accountable for their clothing choices and lack of preparedness.
“This was bound to happen someday,” said Mama July, a heavyset colleague of White’s from the next cubicle over. “Dijon was so skinny, and she always forgot to bring a sweater. I hate to blame the victim, but you just can’t do that here. There are consequences.”