OSHA Affirms Whistleblower Protection For Employees Reporting Workplace Injuries

April 3, 2012 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: APWU, osha 

From the American Postal Workers Union:

Reporting work-related injuries and illnesses is “a core employee right,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has pointed out, “and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination.”

In a March 12 memo, OSHA noted, “If employees do not feel free to report injuries or illnesses, the employer’s entire workforce is put at risk,” the memo points out. “Employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries, and injured employees may not receive the proper medical attention, or the workers’ compensation benefits to which they are entitled. Ensuring that employees can report injuries or illnesses without fear of retaliation are therefore crucial to protecting worker safety and health.”

The memo advises OSHA regional administrators and whistleblower program managers to be aware of four potentially discriminating policies employers may have regarding an employee who reports an on-the-job injury:

  • Taking disciplinary action regardless of the circumstances of the injury;
  • Disciplining an employee for violating an employer rule about the time or manner for reporting injuries and illnesses;
  • Disciplining an employee for an injury that resulted from the employee violating a safety rule, and
  • Offering incentives to not report injuries; for example, offering prizes to employees who were not injured in the previous year.

OSHA also said that the practice of linking management and supervisor bonuses to lower accident reporting could be potentially discriminatory. “Such policies could discourage reporting of injuries and could be considered unlawful discrimination,” the memo stated.

Retaliation against an employee for reporting an occupational injury is a violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

To see the memo in its entirety, visit www.osha.gov/as/opa/whistleblowermemo.html.

Department of Labor Sues USPS for Whistleblower Violations

The threat of retaliation is real concern for postal employees who report injuries or who assist injured employees in exercising their rights.

On Feb. 27, the U.S. Department of Labor sued the U.S. Postal Service alleging the Postal Service engaged in discrimination and retaliation against a safety specialist who provided information to an employee wishing to file a safety complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA’s investigation determined that the Postal Service followed a pattern of adverse actions against the safety specialist, who was assigned to the Seattle Processing and Distribution Center after learning that he had assisted an employee in exercising her rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

That employee later filed a formal complaint with OSHA alleging unhealthful conditions at the facility. The specialist subsequently suffered a series of reprimands, was restricted from contact with staff at the facility, and was transferred to an office without the necessary equipment to perform his job.

The investigation also found that the USPA reassigned many of the specialist’s duties to an individual with a lower pay grade and did not select him for a promotion because of his interactions with OSHA despite acknowledging him as qualified for the position.

The DOL is asking the court to remedy the situation by ordering a permanent injunction against the Postal Service to prevent future violations of the law. The suit also asks for appropriate relief to the safety specialist, including the payment of lost wages and benefits, plus compensatory damages for emotional distress.

Click here for more information on the suit.

OIG Report On USPS Health and Safety Program

November 29, 2011 by · 9 Comments
Filed under: audits, oig, osha, postal news, usps 

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. Read more

Colorado Mail Handlers Local Withdraws From USPS, OSHA Ergonomic Program

June 21, 2011 by · Comments Off
Filed under: ergonomics, mail handlers, osha, postal, usps 

“The Ergonomic Risk Reduction Process (ERRP) reduces both the number and severity of musculoskeletal disorders, builds labor/management teams with ergonomic skills, and cultivates partnerships to identify and control ergonomic risk. These partnerships include OSHA, NPMHU, and APWU. Since its inception in 2003, 176 plants and 9 districts have implemented ERRP, with over 155,000 employees receiving training. ERRP sites that have been involved in the process for at least 12 months experienced a 21.9 percent reduction in musculoskeletal disorders this year.”–source: USPS Read more

OSHA cites USPS facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., with 8 safety violations, more than $164,000 in fines

May 16, 2011 by · Comments Off
Filed under: osha, postal, postal news, press releases, usps 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service at 3200 Summit Blvd. in West Palm Beach for eight alleged safety violations following a November 2010 inspection. Proposed penalties total $164,200.

Six repeat violations with penalties totaling $155,200 include failing to appropriately mark aisles on the loading dock where forklifts were operating; exposing employees to being struck by the forklifts; allowing employees on the loading dock to operate a dumper at the edge of the dock without fall protection; exposing them to a fall of 50 inches; blocking aisles with mail cages; preventing employees from quickly evacuating in case of a fire; exposing workers to fall and electrical hazards by requiring them to climb a ladder and reach over with a wooden pole in order to use disconnect switches for battery chargers; incorrectly labeling containers used to store waste oil and solvents in the battery and oil waste room; and failing to perform monthly inspections with certification records of the hoist chain on the overhead crane that moved batteries weighing up to 3,000 pounds. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Two serious violations with proposed penalties of $9,000 include requiring forklifts to turn and travel in areas on the loading dock that were not kept clear of mail carts, thus exposing workers to being struck by the forklifts, and obstructing the exit route near the loading dock with boxes and equipment, decreasing the capacity of the exit route in case of evacuation. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

“Blocking aisles and placing workers in hazardous situations where they may be struck by a forklift are dangers that should have been identified and corrected by management without waiting for an OSHA inspection,” said Cindy Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “The Postal Service has been cited by OSHA at other locations for these same violations, and we will not tolerate this type of disregard for employees’ safety and health.”

The Postal Service has 15 business days from receipt of the latest citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The site was inspected by staff from OSHA’s Fort Lauderdale Area Office, telephone 954-424-0242. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

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 ensure 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 proposes $93,500 in fines to USPS for recurring hazards at Morgan P & DC in Manhattan

May 12, 2011 by · 8 Comments
Filed under: osha, postal, postal news, usps 

NEW YORK –  The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service for five alleged repeat violations of safety standards following an inspection of the Morgan Processing and Distribution Center, located at 341 Ninth Ave. in Manhattan. The Postal Service faces a total of $93,500 in proposed fines following an OSHA inspection prompted by complaints.

OSHA found exit routes blocked by bins, carts, boxes and other equipment, and electrical control panels blocked by carts and bins. In addition, fire extinguishers were not mounted and readily available for use, floor expansion joints and other areas where powered industrial trucks are operated were not maintained in good condition, and required refresher training was not provided to an employee who operated a powered industrial truck.

“These are all conditions for which the Postal Service previously has been cited at other facilities in New York,” said Kay Gee, OSHA’s Manhattan area director. “Left uncorrected, these hazards expose workers to the dangers of fire, tripping and struck-by injuries, while also being unable to exit the workplace swiftly and safely in the event of a fire or other emergency. The Postal Service must take effective steps to eliminate these hazards and prevent them from happening again.”

A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. In this case, the repeat citations stem from the Postal Service having been cited by OSHA in 2007 and 2010 for similar hazards at facilities in Binghamton, Melville and Jamaica, N.Y.

“One means of addressing and eliminating recurring hazards, such as these, is having an effective illness and injury prevention program in which management and workers proactively identify and eliminate hazardous conditions on a continual basis,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

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 Manhattan Area Office; telephone 212-620-3200. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

OSHA Cites USPS In Nashville, Tenn With $50,000 Fine For Repeat Safety Hazard

March 24, 2011 by · Comments Off
Filed under: osha, postal, postal news, usps 

US Department of Labor’s OSHA cites US Postal Service in
Nashville, Tenn., with $50,000 fine for repeat safety hazard

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service on Royal Parkway in Nashville with a repeat safety violation following an employee being struck by a mail cart. The proposed penalty totals $50,000.

In December 2010, an industrial powered tug with defective brakes hit a mail cart, which in turn struck a worker. The Postal Service is being cited with one repeat safety violation for exposing workers to being struck by powered industrial trucks when power tugs were not removed from service after being identified with damaged or defective parts.

OSHA has cited other Postal Service facilities for the same violation as recently as July 2010. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

“Using equipment that is not in proper working condition, especially defective brakes, is dangerous and that equipment should be removed from service,” said William Cochran, director of OSHA’s Nashville Area Office. “Such hazards must be addressed and corrected, and OSHA will not tolerate this type of disregard for employees’ safety and health.”

Separately, the Royal Parkway location was cited for a willful violation in February 2011 involving use of damaged or unrepaired dock levelers, and the Postal Service is currently contesting that citation.

The Postal Service has 15 business days from receipt of the latest citation and proposed penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The site was inspected by staff from OSHA’s Nashville Area Office, 51 Century Blvd., Suite 340, Nashville, TN 37214; telephone 615-232-3803. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

OSHA cites USPS in Nashville, Tenn., with $70,000 fine for safety hazard

February 9, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: osha, postal, postal news, press releases, usps 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service on Royal Parkway in Nashville with one willful safety violation for allowing workers to use damaged and unrepaired dock levelers, carrying a penalty of $70,000.

OSHA began its inspection following a complaint that an employee was seriously injured while lifting a damaged steel-hinged plate that provides a bridge between the dock and a truck trailer. The strap that the employee was using to lift the plate slipped off the steel flap, which caused the employee to lose balance and fall backwards, striking the concrete floor.

A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

“The Postal Service was made aware of the hazards related to its use of dock levelers that should have been removed from service,” said William Cochran, director of OSHA’s Nashville Area Office. “The hazard must be addressed and corrected because this type of disregard for employees’ safety and health will not be tolerated.”

The Postal Service has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The site was inspected by staff from OSHA’s Nashville Area Office, 51 Century Blvd., Suite 340, Nashville, TN 37214; telephone 615-232-3803. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

OSHA: USPS Fails to Keep Proper Record of Injury and Illness

January 11, 2011 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: APWU, osha, postal, postal news, usps 

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.

OSHA Proposes $80,000 In Fines Against USPS in Duluth, GA For Repeat And Serious Safety Violations

December 29, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: osha, postal, postal news, press releases, usps 

DULUTH, Ga. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing $80,000 in penalties against the U.S. Postal Service for safety violations found during an inspection at its facility on Boggs Road in Duluth.

The Postal Service is being cited with five repeat violations carrying proposed penalties of $75,000. The violations include deficiencies involving lockout/tagout to prevent accidental start-up of machinery; permitting material to be stored in front of the electrical and circuit breaker panel; having unused openings on electrical, fire and receptacle boxes; using flexible cords instead of fixed wiring; and missing the electrical strain prevention clamp on the dock lights. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

The Postal Service is also being cited with two serious violations with proposed penalties of $5,000 for failing to mark exits visibly and having broken dock lights that exposed electrical wiring. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

“This inspection points to the need for employers to develop, implement and maintain programs that ensure hazards such as were noted here are corrected, and that employee exposure to these hazards is eliminated,” said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by staff from OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office, 2183 Northlake Parkway, Building 7, Suite 110, Tucker, GA 30084; telephone 770-493-6644. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742.

OSHA proposes $238,000 in fines against USPS for electrical hazards at Shrewsbury, MA. mail processing facility

December 29, 2010 by · Comments Off
Filed under: osha, postal, postal news, press releases, usps 

BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the U.S. Postal Service for willful and serious violations of safety standards following an inspection at the Central Massachusetts Processing and Distribution Center in Shrewsbury, Mass. The Postal Service faces a total of $238,000 in fines, chiefly for exposing workers to electrical hazards.

“These sizable fines reflect the Postal Service’s knowledge of and failure to address these hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “For years, the Postal Service knew that allowing untrained employees to work on electrical equipment exposed workers to serious injury or worse. Despite this knowledge, the Postal Service did not take the necessary steps to change its practices and eliminate the hazards.”

OSHA’s inspection, which began June 29 in response to a worker complaint, found that unqualified employees at the Shrewsbury location were allowed to work on and test energized electrical circuits and equipment. In addition, electrical equipment had not been de-energized prior to maintenance being performed, and employees were not supplied with insulated tools and equipment.

These conditions resulted in the issuance of three willful citations, with $210,000 in proposed fines. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

OSHA also issued the Postal Service four serious citations, with $28,000 in fines, for lack of employee training in safety-related electrical work practices, lack of personal protective equipment, inadequate voltage meters and failing to perform periodic inspections of the Shrewsbury facility’s energy control procedures. OSHA issues serious citations when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

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 latest inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Springfield Area Office in Massachusetts; telephone 413-785-0123. To report workplace accidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA’s toll-free hotline number at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

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

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