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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following an inspection at the Boston Processing and Distribution Center. The Postal Service faces a total of $357,000 in fines, chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.
"These citations and sizable fines reflect both the gravity of the hazards identified during this inspection, and the Postal Service's knowledge of and systemic failure to address these hazards," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The dangers of electric shock, burns and explosions were real, present and ongoing. The Postal Service must take comprehensive and aggressive action to correct these conditions once and for all."
OSHA's inspection, which began Jan. 28 in response to worker complaints, found that employees at the Boston center, including mechanics and technicians working with or near live electrical equipment or parts such as bar code readers and elevator control panels, were not provided with adequate training, safe electrical work practices, required personal protective equipment or insulated tools.
These conditions exposed the workers to the hazards of electric shock, arc flashes and arc blasts, and resulted in OSHA issuing the Postal Service five willful citations carrying $350,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
OSHA also found that the Boston facility failed to have an authorized person conduct periodic inspections of its energy control procedures to prevent the unexpected startup of machinery during maintenance. This situation resulted in one serious citation, with a $7,000 fine. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
The Postal Service has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.