Problem May be ‘Pervasive’
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) slammed the USPS again for safety violations — this time for under-recording workplace injuries and illnesses. In recent months, OSHA found 242 instances of recordkeeping violations during inspections of 10 postal facilities.
“OSHA believes that under-recording of injuries and illnesses may be a pervasive problem at the USPS,” wrote Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for OSHA, in a Jan. 4 letter to the Postal Service [PDF].
“The percentage of the inspected facilities with violations is indicative of a systemic failure by the USPS” in properly maintaining logs of work-related illness and injuries, Michaels wrote.
In recent months, OSHA received more than 170 worker complaints alleging ergonomic hazards at Processing & Distribution Centers (P&DCs) nationwide. OSHA selected 10 of the facilities for inspection, and “found numerous problems with the USPS practices regarding OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping requirements,” Michaels wrote.
Inspectors issued the Postal Service 37 citations after finding that the USPS failed to record injuries; the number of lost or restricted days; accurately describe injuries; complete proper OSHA forms; record injuries within seven days, and failed to review injury and illness logs for accuracy.
The most common violations were failure to record injuries, which was found at six sites, and failure to accurately describe injuries, which occurred at four facilities.
In response to the findings, OSHA “strongly suggested” that the Postal Service “do a thorough evaluation of recordkeeping at all of its postal facilities” to ensure that all work-related illness and injury logs for calendar years 2006 to present have been properly maintained, and to correct any errors. OSHA also recommended that the USPS “evaluate its general recordkeeping policies,” and provide training for employees required to perform recordkeeping duties to ensure practices are accurate.
“Accurate records are one of the key ways to identify and predict accident trends, and to target corrective measures,” said Corey Thompson, the union’s Safety and Health Specialist. “The problem of improper recordkeeping of workplace injuries and illness is a priority safety issue for the APWU in 2011.”
Michaels said OSHA will conduct 20 to 30 annual follow-up inspections of USPS facilities selected at random to ensure compliance with recordkeeping requirements. Facilities that fail to do so, or do not correct OSHA logs for the past three years, will be subject to “willful and repeat citations,” he wrote.
The 10 OSHA inspections were conducted at P&DCs in Chicago, IL; Lehigh Valley, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Mankato, MN; Seattle, WA; Wareham, MA; Madison, WI; Cayce, SC; Orlando, FL, and Providence, RI. The only facilities that had no recordkeeping violations were in Orlando and Providence.