A grease fire in a wheel hub of a vehicle at a St. Louis Area post office almost didn’t get extinguished in a timely manner, because the first two fire extinguishers that postal workers attempted to use were not charged.

That circumstance – which potentially endangered both mail and employees – came to light when OSHA enforcement personnel arrived to investigate the fire, which was described as “minor.”

Postal employees were ultimately able to locate a charged extinguisher and put out the fire.

"Workers responding to a fire emergency should never find uncharged and inoperable fire protection equipment," said Bill McDonald, OSHA's area director in St. Louis. "Fortunately, no one was injured and this fire was quickly contained. This could have very easily had a tragic outcome. The postal service needs to take immediate action to prevent such near misses in the future."

OSHA cited the U.S. Postal Service's vehicle maintenance facility for one repeated and two serious safety violations for failing to:

  • Maintain charged and operable fire extinguishers.
  • Train workers on fire extinguisher use and the hazards associated with incipient stage firefighting.
  • Maintain a fire alarm system.
  • Conduct monthly inspections of fire extinguishers and associated equipment.

Proposed Penalties: $87,297.