Postal Service Continues to Receive OSHA's Stamp of Disapproval
OSHA has cited the U.S. Postal Service Bulk Mail Center in Kansas City, Kan., for numerous serious and repeat safety violations that the agency said were endangering the health and safety of employees. OSHA proposed $191,000 in penalties against the facility. It was the second fine in five days against USPS, following OSHA's Aug. 20 penalty of $350,000 against a Portsmouth, N.H., USPS Processing and Distribution Center in Portsmouth, N.H., chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.
These latest penalties follow a rash of citations issued to invidual USPS facilities located throughout the country this year. In July, the Department of Labor filed an enterprise-wide complaint that included 350 postal facilities for electrical work safety violations.
The OSHA inspection at the Kansas City facility revealed seven alleged repeat and 21 alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA's inspection was initiated under its site-specific targeting program which targets employers with high injury and illness rates.
"There is no excuse for the lack of attention to the work environment that resulted in a multitude of violations, including seven repeat violations," said Charles Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. "It is imperative that employers take the necessary steps to eliminate hazards and provide a safe working environment for all of their employees to prevent accidents from occurring."
The serious violations stem from overall deficiencies in walking/working surfaces, fall protection, sling use, machine guarding, welding and electrical equipment, OSHA said. The agency issues a serious violation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard that an employer knew or should have known about.
The repeat violations address hazards associated with exit routes, eye wash facilities, electrical equipment, and hazard communication. OSHA issues a repeat violation when an employer has been previously cited for the same, or a substantially similar, violation within three years of the final order date.
The inspection at the Portsmouth, N.H. facility, conducted in response to employee complaints, which resulted in the issuance of five willful citations, found untrained or inadequately trained employees at the Portsmouth distribution center performing troubleshooting and voltage testing on or near live electrical equipment and wiring that had not first been de-energized. The workers also lacked personal protective equipment and were not instructed on proper electrical lockout/tagout procedures.
The Labor Department has filed an enterprise-wide complaint against the U.S. Postal Service for electrical work safety violations. The complaint asks the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to order the USPS to correct electrical violations at all of its facilities nationwide. This complaint marks the first time OSHA has sought enterprise-wide relief as a remedy. Within the past five years, OSHA has conducted more than 900 inspections at USPS facilities across the country and has issued more than 600 citations.