USPS settles OSHA case, agrees to improve worker protections

Tuesday - 7/16/2013, 1:07pm EDT

By Melissa Dawkins
Special to Federal News Radio

The Postal Service agreed to enterprisewide implementation of new electrical safety practices after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found electrical work safety violations during inspections in 2009 and 2010.

USPS, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and OSHA signed a settlement June 26 aimed at improving conditions for postal workers who complete electrical work.

"Under the settlement, the Postal Service has agreed to pay $100,000 at signing and a suspended payment of $3 million pending full abatement of the hazards," according to a July 1 press release from OSHA.

As part of the settlement, USPS will adopt a new electrical work plan. USPS will not let unqualified employees perform energized electrical work, such as troubleshooting and voltage testing. All employees qualified for electrical work must receive OSHA compliance training. In addition, employees who are not qualified for electrical work but perform their jobs in close proximity to energized work will receive separate electrical training, according to the settlement obtained by APWU.

"As a large employer, with a substantial number of affected employees throughout many different types of facilities, the U.S. Postal Service faced many challenges in improving their electrical safe-work program," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, in the press release. "In entering this agreement, OSHA recognizes the Postal Service's commitment and dedication to worker safety."

USPS agreed to obtain necessary personal protection equipment for those working with electricity and agreed to label electrical safety hazards.

USPS is required to report implementation progress of the new guidelines to OSHA every three months for the first two years after signing.

"The agreement marks the OSHA's first 'enterprisewide' settlement and follows a four-year campaign by the APWU and OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration) to force postal management to address egregious electrical safety hazards at postal facilities across the country," according to an APWU article.

The settlement follows an OSHA inspection at 42 Postal Service sites that found electrical work violations in 2009 and 2010. USPS initially contested the citations.

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Melissa Dawkins is an intern for Federal News Radio