APWU, Department of Labor, USPS Settle Nationwide Electrical Safety Complaints
07/01/2013 - The union has signed an unprecedented nationwide agreement with the Department of Labor and the Postal Service that settles a series of OSHA complaints initiated by the APWU regarding violations of safe electrical work practices.
The agreement marks the OSHA’s first “enterprise-wide” settlement and follows a four-year campaign by the APWU and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to force postal management to address egregious electrical safety hazards at postal facilities across the country.
As a result of the settlement, the USPS has completely revised its policies and procedures on electrical work.
“The APWU is pleased to be a part of this landmark commitment to worker safety, which will ensure the protection of Postal workers from electrical hazards,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey.
Responding to APWU complaints, beginning in 2009 OSHA inspected 42 postal facilities and found that the USPS failed to provide employees working on electrically energized equipment with adequate training and protective equipment. OSHA issued citations for “willful and serious” violations of its electrical safety standards, and sought fines of more than $6 million.
Postal practices exposed workers to the risk of severe electric shock, burn or death, OSHA concluded.
The USPS contested the citations, so in the summer of 2010, the Department of Labor filed a motion to consolidate the complaints for trial before the OSHA Review Commission. The Department of Labor sought a unified resolution that would cover all postal facilities, noting that OSHA had already issued fines of more than $3 million for violations at 17 facilities.
The APWU was granted “party status” to participate in the litigation of the case.
The settlement agreement, dated June 28:
- Prohibits employees from working on electrically energized equipment except for specific tasks that can only be performed when the equipment is energized;
- Requires the USPS to provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), including electrically protective gloves and “full body arc flash protection” for work on energized equipment;
- Requires the Postal Service to retrain employees who perform or supervise electrical work;
- Requires the Postal Service to re-label electrical equipment with safety warnings and information;
- Requires the USPS to implement a national “safe-work program”;
- Requires the USPS to assign an Electrical Work Plan Coordinator to each postal facility to administer the program, and
- Requires the Postal Service to meet with OSHA and the APWU on a regular basis to discuss the results of OSHA inspections and USPS audits, as well as any concerns or problems encountered.
Under the settlement, the Postal Service agreed to pay $100,000 at the signing of the agreement and a suspended payment of $3 million pending full abatement of the hazards. OSHA will monitor the Postal Service’s progress toward abatement and evaluate that progress against negotiated milestones.