OSHA Crackdown on USPS Continues; Maryland Facility Fined $272K

OSHA has cited the U.S. Postal Service for workplace safety violations related to electrical hazards found at its Processing and Distribution Center in Capitol Heights, Md. Proposed penalties total $272,000. The agency made the announcement six days after the Department of Labor filed an enterprise-wide complaint against USPS for electrical work safety violations. That July 6 complaint, which marked the first time OSHA has sought enterprise-wide relief as a remedy, asked the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to order USPS to correct electrical violations at all its facilities nationwide.

"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 initiated an inspection in January 2010 in response to a complaint alleging the hazards. Inspectors cited USPS with four willful violations carrying a penalty of $265,000 and one serious violation with a penalty of $7,000.

The willful violations include inadequate training for workers exposed to electrical hazards, failing to provide electrical protective equipment to protect workers from arc-flash hazards and electrical current, and failing to use appropriate safety signs, safety symbols or accident prevention tags to warn employees about electrical hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The serious violation includes the facility’s failure to provide voltage-rated tools. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

USPS has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, meet with the OSHA area director, or contest the findings before the independent OSHRC. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's Baltimore/Washington Area Office.

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