The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service for five alleged willful violations of safety standards following an inspection at the Portsmouth, N.H., Processing and Distribution Center. The Postal Service faces a total of $350,000 in fines, chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.

OSHA's inspection, conducted in response to employee complaints, found untrained or inadequately trained employees at the Portsmouth distribution center performing troubleshooting and voltage testing on or near live electrical equipment and wiring that had not first been de-energized. The workers also lacked personal protective equipment and were not instructed on proper electrical lockout/tagout procedures.

As a result of its inspection, OSHA has issued five willful citations to the Postal Service for the conditions at the Portsmouth facility. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

"These citations and the sizable fines proposed here reflect the Postal Service's ongoing knowledge of and failure to address conditions that exposed its workers to the severe and potentially deadly hazards of electric shock, arc flashes and arc blasts," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

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. This inspection was conducted by OSHA's area office in Concord; telephone 603-225-1629. To report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742.

The Labor Department 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 of its facilities nationwide. This complaint marks the first time OSHA has sought enterprise-wide relief as a remedy.