Fifth Postal Facility Fined This Month, This Time in Maine for $430,000

OSHA has cited the U.S. Postal Service for alleged willful and repeat violations of safety standards following an inspection at the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Scarborough, Maine. USPS faces a total of $430,000 in fines, chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.

"These citations and sizable fines reflect the Postal Service's failure to equip its workers with the necessary knowledge and skills to safely work with live electrical parts," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The Postal Service knew that proper and effective training was needed for the safety of its workers but did not provide it."

OSHA's inspection, which began Dec. 29, 2009, in response to a complaint from workers at the Scarborough facility, found employees working with or near live electrical equipment without adequate training or qualifications, personal protective equipment, safety-related work practices and warning signs.

These conditions exposed the workers to electric shock, arc flashes, and arc blasts and resulted in OSHA issuing six willful citations, with $420,000 in proposed fines, to USPS. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

In addition, OSHA found that access to electrical panels was blocked in several instances by materials being stored adjacent to them. This situation resulted in one repeat citation, with a $10,000 fine, since USPS had been cited in November 2007 for the same type of hazard at a Toledo, Ohio, postal facility.

The citation is the fifth OSHA has reported against USPS facilities in just this month, all the result of investigations that were conducted following complaints against the respective facilities, and all centering around insufficient electrical safety practices. OSHA reported proposed penalties of $299,500 against a mail processing facility in Pittsburgh on June 8, the same day it also proposed penalties totaling $497,000 against two USPS facilities in Philadelphia. On June 21, the agency fined a USPS processing and distribution center in Portland, Ore., for $77,500. This latest fine against the Scarborough facility brings the proposed penalty total against USPS to more than $1.3 million for the month of June alone.

USPS has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the OSHA area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's area office in Augusta, Maine.

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