OIG found in some locations that safety was not always a priority to management
Highlights of the USPS OIG audit:
Previously, the Postal Service, as a federal agency, was exempt from private sector provisions of the OSH Act. When PESEA became effective, the Postal Service became fully subject to the OSH Act. This gave OSHA jurisdiction over the Postal Service in matters relating to employee safety and health and required the Postal Service to comply with OSHA standards and regulations. If violations occur, OSHA may cite or fine the Postal Service or, in extreme cases, refer the agency for criminal prosecution.
In recent years, OSHA has increased its inspections and citations of the Postal Service considerably and, as a result, penalties have increased. Specifically, the total number of proposed violations increased from 112 in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to 528 in FY 2010. According to OSHA, 52 percent of the Postal Service’s proposed violations in FYs 2008-2010 were for serious violations. Actual penalties the Postal Service paid increased from $59,965 in FY 2008 to $568,486 in FY 2010.
The Postal Service has implemented processes to minimize health and safety hazards at its facilities and to help ensure compliance with OSHA requirements, including semiannual safety inspections that provide a method for identifying, tracking, and abating hazards and unsafe conditions. They also perform program evaluations to measure the effectiveness of safety and health programs and ensure compliance with OSHA regulations. In addition, the employees use Postal Service (PS) Form 1767, Report of Hazard, Unsafe Condition or Practice Procedures, to report safety hazards they identify in the work place. However, Postal Service personnel at the locations we visited did not consistently follow established procedures, resulting in hazardous and unsafe working conditions. Some of the hazards we observed included unsafe practices regarding loading dock areas, powered industrial truck (PIT) operation, eyewash and shower units, electrical issues, unanchored lockers, and fire prevention.
We found management control weaknesses at the locations we visited contributed to the safety hazards identified. Specifically:
Officials at two locations stated safety was not a priority.
Performance measures for supervisors did not place a high priority on maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
Guidance regarding PIT operation safety training is inconsistent. Headquarters management stated that OSHA does not require PIT operation training for operators and supervisors. However, the Safety Toolkit identified PIT operation training courses as a triennial requirement. The OSHA requirement is for an evaluation of PIT operator performance every 3 years.
Field management officials we interviewed:
° Were not aware of hazardous conditions (four locations).
° Did not always ensure preventive maintenance was performed on eyewash and shower units (two locations).
° Did not always ensure personnel followed policies and procedures regarding loading dock safety (two locations).
° Did not always ensure personnel followed policies and procedures regarding PIT operation (five locations).
As a result, employees were exposed to increased risk of injury and the Postal Service was exposed to potential increases in workers’ compensation costs and OSHA penalties.
** The Postal Service may contest the citation, proposed penalty, and/or abatement date. These numbers do not reflect contested items that have resulted in reductions in the violation’s severity, number, or penalty amount.