Union Battles USPS Over Ergonomic Hazards

According to Greg Bell, APWU Director Industrial Relations

Locally Filed Osha Complaints and a National Unfair Labor Practice Charge are among the actions taken by the APWU in our ongoing battle with the Postal Service over ergonomic hazards on the Delivery Bar Code Sorter (DBCS). In a March 25, 2009, letter to local presidents [PDF], the national union urged locals to file individual complaints with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for each facility that has a DBCS within the installation

In addition, we filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Dec. 22, 2008, and an amended charge on March 9, 2009, protesting the Postal Service’s refusal to meet and bargain in good faith about ergonomic issues revealed in an OSHA report.We also protested the Postal Service’s failure to provide information that we repeatedly have requested.

In late October 2007, OSHA conducted an assessment of the DBCS operations at the Denver P&DC. OSHA’s review documented that ergonomic risks associated with the DBCS operations are still present, and that some of the findings are similar to the findings of two prior National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluations.

Despite the OSHA reports, the Postal Service has refused every attempt by the APWU to discuss the hazards, and continues to willfully expose postal employees to risks associated with the operation of the DBCS.

In addition to ignoring OSHA and NIOSH reports, the Postal Service ignores its own handbooks, manuals, and training programs, as well as the DBCS manufacturer’s manuals for the safe and healthful operation of the equipment. The Postal Service insists that it is making progress in reducing injuries, and that the DBCS is not a cause of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD).

OSHA and NIOSH, on the other hand, have documented that employees are exposed to hazards and are at risk for injuries due to improper equipment installation, including foot-print allocation; support equipment placement and organization; improper allocation of heavy volumes of mail to higher-risk sorting bins; ergonomically unsound loading- and sweeping-procedures; and are subject to various administrative deficiencies such as inadequate work-rest cycles/rotation; insufficient training (both initial and refresher), and questionable equipment-maintenance practices.

On May 1, 2009, the NLRB issued a formal Complaint and Notice of Hearing for the Postal Service’s continued failure and refusal to provide the union with requested documents pertaining to the DBCS-7, the latest version of the machine, as well as information regarding internal reviews of OSHA’s assessment of the DBCS.

In addition to asking the Board to force the Postal Service to provide the requested documentation, the union sought injunctive relief that would require the USPS to meet to discuss these ergonomic issues. The NLRB Regional Director agreed and was prepared to go to court to force the Postal Service to meet. Faced with the threat of an injunction, the Postal Service backed down.

Since then, the Postal Service has met once, but the NRLB Regional Director issued a complaint, nonetheless, because of the “unreasonable delay” in giving the union relevant information. The Regional Director has scheduled a hearing on July 20, 2009, on the allegations in the complaint.

In the meantime, any local with a DBCS that has not yet filed an OSHA complaint should do so as soon as possible. The form necessary for filing a complaint, as well as a packet of information that must be submitted with it, is available on the Industrial Relations pages at http://www.apwu.org/.

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4 thoughts on “Union Battles USPS Over Ergonomic Hazards

  1. Already had 3 surgeries from working these machines. Something needs to be done. We are all getting older and it gets more difficult. Everyone has the same aches and pains.

  2. There goes the crackerjack A (America’s) P (Poorest) W (Workers?) U (Union). Lazy bums who are now tring to bankrupt permanently the USPS. When they do, who’ll pay their sit back cushy jobs? Postal workers, desert this Burass only union. Make the ass work for a living.

  3. Yes simething needs to be done to remedy this situation. This is not a job for old people, bending, stooping, pulling etc. Where is medicare ? help

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