On Jan. 14, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Chicago North Area Office initiated an inspection of the mail sorting facility after receiving a complaint alleging unsafe working conditions. OSHA found workers were exposed to various electrical hazards and issued two repeat, four serious and one other-than-serious violation with proposed penalties of $63,540.
"The Postal Service has a responsibility to make sure equipment is maintained in good working order," said Angeline Loftus, OSHA's area director in Des Plaines, Ill. "Each year hundreds of workers are injured by electrical hazards in the workplace. The Postal Service needs to re-evaluate this facility and correct these hazards immediately."
Investigators found workers were exposed to electrical hazards because electrical power taps were not used in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations and electrical equipment such as an industrial fan were not grounded properly, resulting in the two repeat violations.
OSHA issues repeat violations when an employer has been previously cited for the same or a similar violation in the past five years. The Postal Service was cited for similar hazards in 2014 in Groton, Conn. and Ludington, Mich.
In 2013, the U.S. Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union agreed to terms of a settlement that would improve safety in postal facilities across the country. The settlement followed negotiations stemming from inspections at 42 Postal Service sites in 2009 and 2010 that found violations of OSHA standards on electrical work practices. USPS contested the citations, and OSHA then sought enterprise-wide relief before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The four serious violations involved the use of unapproved electrical equipment, use of improperly spliced cords, and not providing strain relief for all electrical cords. The Postal Service also failed to mark permanent aisles resulting in an other-than-serious violation.