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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the U.S. Postal Service for willful and serious violations of safety standards following an inspection at the Central Massachusetts Processing and Distribution Center in Shrewsbury, Mass. The Postal Service faces a total of $238,000 in fines, chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.
"These sizable fines reflect the Postal Service's knowledge of and failure to address these hazards," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "For years, the Postal Service knew that allowing untrained employees to work on electrical equipment exposed workers to serious injury or worse. Despite this knowledge, the Postal Service did not take the necessary steps to change its practices and eliminate the hazards."
OSHA's inspection, which began June 29 in response to a worker complaint, found that unqualified employees at the Shrewsbury location were allowed to work on and test energized electrical circuits and equipment. In addition, electrical equipment had not been de-energized prior to maintenance being performed, and employees were not supplied with insulated tools and equipment.
These conditions resulted in the issuance of three willful citations, with $210,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
OSHA also issued the Postal Service four serious citations, with $28,000 in fines, for lack of employee training in safety-related electrical work practices, lack of personal protective equipment, inadequate voltage meters and failing to perform periodic inspections of the Shrewsbury facility's energy control procedures. OSHA issues serious citations when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard 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.
The U.S. Department of Labor 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 its facilities nationwide. This complaint marks the first time OSHA has sought enterprise-wide relief as a remedy.