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Postal Service Agrees to Correct Electrical Hazards Nationwide

By Roy Maurer  7/9/2013
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The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) reached a settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on July 1, 2013, to improve electrical safety in postal facilities across the country. 

After three years of negotiations that arose from inspections that found violations of OSHA electrical-work standards at 42 Postal Service sites in 2009 and 2010, the agency has agreed to overhaul facilities and provide safety training and protective equipment to employees who perform electrical work, according to the settlement.

In exchange for making the corrections and instituting new safety policies, the Postal Service will avoid a $6.1 million fine and instead pay a penalty of $100,000.

Fines of $3 million will be levied on the agency if it fails to meet the settlement’s two-year abatement schedule. OSHA will monitor the progress toward abatement and evaluate that progress against negotiated milestones.

As part of the settlement, which covers all Postal Service facilities nationwide, including processing and distribution centers and post offices, the USPS has revised its written policies and procedures on electrical work, prohibiting employees from working on electrically energized equipment except for a defined set of tasks that can be performed only while equipment is energized, such as troubleshooting and testing. To ensure compliance with these electrical-safety policies, the USPS will assign a trained electrical work plan coordinator at each facility. In addition, it will provide and require the use of protective gloves and full-body arc flash protection for energized work, including voltage testing.

The Postal Service has also agreed to audit the implementation of the electrical-safe-work program at all maintenance-capable facilities and to report the results in detail to OSHA each quarter during the agreement’s two-year term. The USPS will retrain all employees who perform electrical work to comply with OSHA requirements.

The American Postal Workers Union, which first raised the safety concerns to OSHA, praised 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,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

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