The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service for six alleged willful violations of safety standards following an inspection at the White River Junction Processing and Distribution Center in White River Junction, Vt. The Postal Service faces a total of $420,000 in fines, chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.
OSHA's inspection, which began January 30, 2010, in response to worker complaints, found untrained or unqualified employees at the White River Junction distribution center routinely performing troubleshooting, servicing, voltage testing and maintenance on or near live electrical equipment, such as mail sorting and cancelling machines. The machines had not first been deenergized and the workers also lacked personal protective equipment, insulated tools and were not provided electrical lockout/tagout procedures to use.
"The conditions cited here exposed workers to the swift and potentially deadly hazards of electric shock, arc flashes and arc blasts," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "This large fine reflects both the gravity of these hazards and the Postal Service's ongoing knowledge of and failure to correct them."
As a result of its inspection, OSHA has issued six willful citations to the Postal Service for the conditions at the White River Junction facility. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
The Postal Service has 15 business days from receipt of its latest 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.