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USPS must pay $3M fine for dangerous work conditions

One might not think that postal workers face many dangerous conditions on the job, but that's actually not the case. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) was recently hit with a huge fine of $3 million after reaching a settlement with the American Postal Workers Union and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration after electrical hazards were found at its facilities across the country.

In 2009 and 2010, OSHA inspections found violations of its electrical work practices standards at 42 USPS locations. USPS challenged the violations and OSHA responded with a request for review by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. However, in a recent settlement, USPS agreed to revise its policies and procedures on electrical work to ensure that the policies comply with OSHA requirements.

The settlement, which applies to all USPS processing and distribution centers and post offices throughout the country, requires USPS to pay $100,000 in fines upfront and a later payment of $3 million after the specified hazards have been addressed. OSHA will continue to monitor USPS's compliance with the settlement against a negotiated timeframe.

Part of the policies that need to be changed include prohibiting postal workers from working on equipment that is electrically-energized, except for certain tasks. USPS also agreed to appoint a trained electrical work plan coordinator at each postal facility and provide full body protective wear for energized work.

The assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health with OSHA said the postal service "faced many challenges in improving their electrical safe-work program," but in agreeing to the settlement, made clear its "commitment and dedication to worker safety.”

In a statement, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO said the union, too, is satisfied with the outcome of the settlement.

“The APWU is pleased to be a part of this landmark commitment to worker safety, which will ensure the protection of postal workers from electrical hazards," he said.

USPS is lucky that it was able to reach a settlement with OSHA and address the safety hazards before a worker was seriously injured or killed on the job. If that had been the case, the postal carrier could have faced even greater penalties in a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit.

Source: EHS Today, "U.S. Postal Service Settles with OSHA, Agrees to Improve Worker Safety," Sandy Smith, July 19, 2013

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