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Agency Finds ‘Willful, Serious’ Hazards

OSHA Slams USPS for Safety Violations

(This article was first published in the July/August 2010 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has charged the USPS with a series of citations in multiple cities for “willful and serious” safety violations. As of mid-June, OSHA had issued citations to the Postal Service at 12 facilities, and ordered it to pay fines of more than $2 million.

The violations, all related to electrical hazards, were discovered after OSHA inspectors visited the sites as a result of complaints filed by APWU locals. The Postal Service “ignored long-established safety standards and knowingly put its workers in harm’s way,” OSHA said.

The Postal Service exposed workers to the serious and potentially fatal hazards of shock, electrocution and severe burns, OSHA said.

The citations substantiate charges leveled by the APWU regarding the Postal Service’s failure to adhere to OSHA standards for electrical safety. “These sizable fines reflect the severity and ongoing nature of these hazards,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary, in a press release.

Inspectors found serious safety violations at the facilities: Untrained or unqualified workers were performing tests on live electrical equipment, and personal protective equipment, work practices, and warning signs were inadequate, OSHA said. Employees were working on live electrical machinery without being provided non-conductive head protection, voltage-rated gloves, flame resistant clothing, or face shields to prevent injury from “electric arcs,” the agency said.

In addition, OSHA cited the Postal Service for failing to instruct workers on the proper procedures for locking out machines’ power sources to prevent unexpected startup during maintenance, and other related hazards.

OSHA Citations of USPS

Site

Date

Amount

Des Moines, IA

1/27/2010

$97,500

Providence, RI

4/29/2010

$558,000

Bedford Park, IL

5/05/2010

$210,000

Denver, CO

5/10/2010

$217,000

Anaheim, CA

5/24/2010

$11,050

Bell, CA

5/24/2010

$18,425

Las Vegas, NV

5/24/2010

$10,625

Philadelphia BMC

6/03/2010

$210,000

Philadelphia P&DC

6/04/2010

$217,000

Pittsburgh P&DC

6/08/2010

$300,000

Baton Rouge P&DC

6/15/2010

$97,500

Portland (OR) P&DC

6/16/2010

$77,000

TOTAL

 

$2,024,100


More citations are expected in the coming months. Safety citations were issued at the Portland, OR Processing and Distribution Center; Baton Rouge Processing and Distribution Center; Pittsburgh, PA mail processing facility; Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center; the Philadelphia Bulk Mail Center; Bedford Park, IL; Des Moines, IA; Las Vegas, NV; Bell, CA; Anaheim, CA; Denver, CO; and Providence, RI.

Assistance from Locals

OSHA inspections have been conducted at numerous postal facilities as the result of locally filed complaints. The locals acted in response to a request from the Industrial Relations Department to report the Postal Service’s failure to comply with OSHA’s electrical regulations.

APWU has made many attempts to discuss and correct known electrical risks and hazards: In 2007 and 2008, OSHA conducted inspections of postal facilities and found violations of various electrical safety standards. The Postal Service agreed that the hazards existed and entered into informal settlements, but has so far failed to correct the problems.

To combat the USPS intransigence, the national union developed guidelines and urged locals across the country to file OSHA complaints.

We encourage locals to continue to report hazardous working conditions to OSHA.

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