APWU Web News Articles

OSHA Fines USPS for ‘Willful’ Safety Violation

In Nashville, Faulty Dock Leveler Led to Serious Injury

Web News Article #: 

02/11/2011 - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charged the Postal Service with another "willful" safety violation on Feb. 9, after managers in Nashville allowed workers to use dock levelers that were known to be unsafe. An employee was seriously injured while using the defective equipment.

OSHA inspected the facility after receiving a complaint that a postal worker was seriously hurt while working with a steel-hinged dock leveler. The strap that the employee was using to lift the plate, which served as a platform between a loading dock and a truck trailer, slipped off the steel flap, causing the employee to fall backwards onto the concrete floor.

“The Postal Service was made aware of the hazards related to its use of dock levelers that should have been removed from service,” said William Cochran, director of OSHA’s Nashville Area Office. “The hazard must be addressed and corrected because this type of disregard for employees’ safety and health will not be tolerated.” The agency fined the Postal Service $70,000.

A violation is considered “willful” when an employer has demonstrated an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or “plain indifference” to employee safety and health.

“Management’s failure to correct this safety hazard is inexcusable,” said Mike Morris, APWU director of Industrial Relations. “Unfortunately, it seems to be a part of a pattern.

“The APWU insists on a safe work environment, and we urge union members to be vigilant about their surroundings. We encourage workers to report any unsafe conditions they encounter.”

Ignorance of Safety Standards

OSHA’s Nashville findings follow in the wake of other safety hazards found at postal facilities across the country, many of them for violations of electrical safety work practices standards. Between January 2010 and late December 2010, the agency issued the USPS more than 31 citations and over $6 million in fines for exposing employees to electrical hazards.

OSHA also slammed the USPS for under-recording workplace injuries and illnesses . In January 2011, the agency reported 242 instances of recordkeeping violations during inspections of 10 postal facilities, and issued 37 citations after finding that the USPS failed to record and accurately describe injuries, along with other similar violations.

Additionally, in response to more than 170 worker complaints alleging ergonomic hazards at Processing & Distribution Centers nationwide, OSHA found that Delivery Bar Code Sorter (DBCS) machines pose a direct risk to workers’ health. OSHA selected nine sites for inspection as a representative sample, and said that common risk factors seem to be present at all sites.