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USPS agrees to multimillion-dollar settlement over alleged dangers

Jul. 1, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
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A U.S. Postal Service worker sorts mail at the Chicago Logistics and Distribution Center in December in Elk Grove Village, Ill. USPS will spend millions overhauling worker safety practices under a settlement regarding alleged electrical hazards at mail processing plants. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The U.S. Postal Service will spend millions of dollars to overhaul worker safety practices under a settlement regarding alleged electrical hazards at mail processing plants, the Labor Department and American Postal Workers Union announced Monday.

As part of the settlement, which applies to all facilities, Postal Service officials agreed to: provide safety training and protective equipment to employees who perform electrical work; revise policies and procedures for handling such work; and meet every three months with representatives of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American Postal Workers Union to discuss compliance, according to the agreement between the three parties posted on the APWU’s website.

The Labor Department, OSHA’s parent agency, had filed the complaint seeking unprecedented “enterprise-wide” relief in July 2010 after citing the Postal Service for serious violations at numerous processing plants that in some cases allegedly risked injuring or electrocuting employees. The Postal Service, which had faced million of dollars in fines under the original citations, will instead pay $100,000 initially. Another $3 million in penalties are suspended and will be waived if OSHA in two years determines that the Postal Service has met the terms of the agreement.

The Postal Sevice has already handed out more than $2 million worth of protective gear, USPS spokeswoman Patricia Licata said in an email, and will invest more than $5 million on added training for almost 20,000 maintenance employees.

As a large employer, the Postal Service “faced many challenges in improving their electrical work-safe program,” OSHA Administrator David Michaels said in a news release. “In entering this agreement, OSHA recognizes the Postal Service’s commitment and dedication to worker safety.”

In the same release, USPS Chief Human Resources Officer Jeffrey Williams said worker safety has always been a top priority and the Postal Service is “happy to have resolved the issue amicably” and in the best interests of employee safety.

At APWU, which represents mail plant employees, President Cliff Guffey called the settlement a “landmark commitment to worker safety.”

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