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OSHA proposes $272,000 in penalties for electrical hazards at USPS Maryland facility (7/13)

July 13, 2010

OSHA has cited the U.S. Postal Service for workplace safety violations related to electrical hazards found at the Capitol Heights Processing and Distribution Center, an OSHA press release states. Proposed penalties total $272,000.

"These citations and sizable fines reflect the Postal Service's failure to equip its workers with the necessary knowledge and skills to safely work with live electrical parts," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The Postal Service knew that proper and effective training was needed for the safety of its workers but did not provide it."

OSHA initiated an inspection in January 2010 in response to a complaint alleging the hazards. Inspectors cited the Postal Service with four willful violations carrying a penalty of $265,000 and one serious violation with a penalty of $7,000.

The willful violations include inadequate training for workers exposed to electrical hazards, failing to provide electrical protective equipment to protect workers from arc-flash hazards and electrical current, and failing to use appropriate safety signs, safety symbols or accident prevention tags to warn employees about electrical hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The serious violation includes the facility's failure to provide voltage-rated tools. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

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.