OSHA Proposes $350,000 In Fines Against USPS At Portsmouth, NH Mail Processing Facility

CONCORD, N.H. – 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.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

“OSHA records state the postal facility was previously cited for that same infraction three years ago.”

8 thoughts on “OSHA Proposes $350,000 In Fines Against USPS At Portsmouth, NH Mail Processing Facility


  2. And it should be pointed out that the Postal Service’s “National Center for Employee Development” (NCED) national training center in Norman OK, will be requiring the proper electrical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be used in all of its maintenance training courses beginning September 1, 2010.

    What this means is that for decades, the Postal Service’s NCED has been teaching all maintenance courses, even those dealing with troubleshooting live electrical circuits, both single and three phase, WITHOUT ANY ELECTRICAL PPE for the students. In other words, the Postal Service’s official training programs taught its employees unsafe work practices that violate OSHA regulations. This was simply the Postal Service’s “Standard Operating Procedure”. That is how endemic these OSHA violations are within the Postal Service.

    Yet Postal management insists on trying to blame the hourly workers and their unions for Postal management’s own failings.

  3. Poor “kacey” and “Undercover”… you are both delusional and typical of Postal management.

    Not only has there never been any national arc-flash training or comprehensive electrical safety work plan in the Postal Service until just this year (2010), the Postal Service is scrambling to develop and implement a an electrical safety work plan that is changing daily. New Maintenance Management Orders are constantly being issued to supersede even recent previous versions, and still it is evolving almost daily.

    The Postal Service in most installations nationwide, has never had all of the proper electrical Personal Protective Equipment on hand and available for use for its maintenance workers who perform work on energized circuits.

    For too long the Postal Service was partially exempt from OSHA regulations and each facility had the ability to deny OSHA access to investigate complaints. Now that those days are gone, the Postal Service has many decades worth of “catching up” to do in order to catch up to the same safety standards that have long been practiced in private industry.

    Postal management alone is solely responsible for these deficiencies and non-compliance. Attempts to blame the workers and/or their “unions” for management’s failures is typical of the Postal management’s dysfunctional “no accountability” culture. If the Postal Service were a branch of the Military, PMG Potter would be job hunting with former General Stanley McCrystal about now. But instead, PMG Potter will receive another h-u-g-e bonus while jetting around in the private corporate jet provided for his use. Sweet.

  4. Admit it: Maintenance employees HAVE been trained to perform the duties of their jobs in a safe manner. Choosing to ignore the rules/regulations is a decision made by the employee(s); their personal choice. Pointing fingers at management is an employee’s way of ignoring their responsibility to work safely; it’s someone else’s fault that I work stupid, right? By the way, when management settles a grievance, it by no means represents guilt or fault; same as the unions when they settle.

  5. Undercover-

    You start out by saying it is not all managements fault and then you go on to prove it is.

  6. It’s not all on management. I supervise maintenance workers. If I am not with each of them while they perform their assigned tasks they immediately choose to not follow electrical safety procedures. They would rather hide behind the equipment, leaving it energized with covers open, while they flip through a customers magazine. In 3 months I’ve issued (through progressive discipline) 4 fourteen day suspension letters for these repeated behaviors. The employees don’t care ’cause they don’t have to serve the suspension until the grievance outcome which normally takes about 2 years. By then, some upper manager settles it as time served without them loosing anypay. I believe in Unions but I can’t tolerate liars, thieves, and cheats!

  7. This is yet another example of USPS management ignorance and arrogance.

    USPS management operates as tyrannically as “Plantation Dictatorship”.

    The USPS would become far more successful if management would learn to LISTEN to the suggestions and complaints from its hourly workers and the Unions that represent them.

    What is needed more than anything for any hope of future USPS success is for management to learn and adopt the concept of what “Teamwork” really means.

    All of these fines could have been avoided if management had just listened to employee and Union complains and taken timely corrective action. USPS management would rather keep its confrontational “foot on their necks” policies and its corrosively hostile work environment that USPS deliberately fosters.

    If the pay and benefits were any lower, not even undocumented vacationers from other countries would put up with these typical USPS management failings.

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