Stand Up for Safe Jobs
(This article first appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman
“It is the responsibility of management to provide safe working conditions in all present and future installations and to develop a safe working force.”
This is how Article 14 of our Collective Bargaining agreement with the Postal Service begins. That one sentence is very powerful and tells all of us that the highest-ranking postal manager – the Postmaster General – recognizes that ultimately it is their responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment.
You may hear supervisors and managers say that safety is “everyone’s responsibility” or that every accident is “preventable.” But how often do you hear that safety is every worker’s right?
Federal law and our collective bargaining agreement make it clear you have the right to a safe workplace and to go home each night uninjured, healthy, and able to enjoy your life. But do all your supervisors and managers believe it is your right to have a safe workplace free from hazardous situations, broken and dangerous equipment, narrow walkways, blocked exits, or ergonomically unsafe conditions? There may be some who preach that – but what do their actions show? If I had to guess, I would guess their actions show they view safety more as a burden unjustly placed upon them instead of a right they are required to ensure you have.
One of the most important ways to protect your rights to a safe workplace is to know what they are; management is most likely not going to freely volunteer this information.
That is why we hope you all received a copy of the Stand Up for Safe Jobs brochure put together under the direction of President Dimondstein, with five fact sheets on your rights and safety. You can find these fact sheets at: www.apwu.org/issues/safe-jobs.
Postal policies, handbooks, manuals, and your APWU contract make it clear you have the right to report dangerous conditions, hazards, broken/damaged equipment, and unsafe work practices. You have the right to complete PS Form 1767 to report anything unsafe.
This form requires management to put in writing what they did to address your concern and how they abated the unsafe item you reported. The form calls for action by the end of your shift – if that isn’t possible, then no later than 24 hours after the form has been filed.
You have the right to file complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when safety is not a concern of your supervisors and managers and unsafe working conditions and practices are continuous. You also have the right to refuse to do work that is of such a danger, bodily harm is clearly possible. However, the danger must be clearly evident.
These policies also make it clear that you can do this without the fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, we know sometimes your supervisors and managers may not adhere to this practice. You can take action when they do not follow the rules. Of course, when safety rules and regulations are not followed, you also have the right to file a grievance.
Your union takes safety seriously and will support your fight. Our contract requires the USPS to hear your safety grievances, listen to our union on safety issues, and work with us to make sure safety is a priority.
APWU Regional Safety Representatives can assist you and your local in the enforcement of safety rules. You can find yours at www.apwu.org/issues/regional-shrepresentatives.
In 2017, 12 postal employees lost their lives on the job. Over 42,000 postal employees were injured and had claims accepted by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. We do not want you to become the next statistic. Know your rights, enforce your right to a safe workplace, exercise all the tools you have to have a safe work environment, and always be willing to Stand
Up for Safe Jobs.