Postal Service addresses concerns uncovered by safety review

Wednesday - 12/7/2011, 11:18am EST

Judy Leonhardt, acting deputy assistant inspector general for support operations, Office of the Inspector General

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By Michael O'Connell
@moconnellWFED
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

The Postal Service has a process to ensure that workers are kept safe from accidents on the job. But the Inspector General has found that employees don't always follow those processes.

"We reviewed specific facilities at eight different locations, but we also did a random selection of all of our various processing and distributions centers,"said Judy Leonhardt, the acting deputy assistant inspector general for support operations in the Office of the Inspector General.

When the review revealed an unsafe condition at a facility, Leonhardt said, the facility was quick to address the issue.

"They were also very quick to make sure that their people had the training and were basically re-informed of the standards to keep them safe," she told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris on Wednesday morning.

According to Leonhardt, many of the unsafe conditions revealed in the review involved loading docks and powered industrial trucks.

"Basically, you get a motorized vehicle," she said, "and you have a higher chance of a significant injury occuring." Some loading docks weren't always following proper procedures and one location had recurring accidents in spite of updating its procedures, resulting in a number of injuries.

"Another location had red lignt/green light process to ensure safety," Leonhardt said. "But those lights were either not working or not working properly. Loading docks can be a bit of a hazard and a concern and it's something that the Postal Service wants to play close attention to."

The review also uncovered deficiencies in eyewash and shower stations, which are supposed to be easily accessible so that workers exposed to hazardous conditions can quickly cleanse themselves.

"We found some problems with locked doors ... and blockages and keeping those stations fresh and current," she said. "Once we brought them to the Postal Service's attention, they fixed them, but it's something that we need to be vigilant on."

Although stories about budgetary concerns at the Postal Service have been prevalent in the news, Leonhardt pointed out that those concerns had nothing to do with the safety issues that the review uncovered.

"The Postal Service took the time to tell their employees and managers that safety is first here," she said. "The challenge is that we have over 38,000 facilities and about 600,000 employees that we need to keep safe, and making sure that we consistently get that message to them and that all those safety metrics are consistently in place to protect them."

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