OSHA, the U.S. Postal Service and unions representing Postal Service workers are teaming up to reduce ergonomic hazards for postal workers at work sites around the nation, announced agency chief John L. Henshaw.

"Under this partnership, OSHA, the postal unions and the Postal Service will all be working together for the good of postal workers," said Henshaw. "It is just this kind of commitment from management and cooperation from unions and employees that we need to help reduce injuries and illnesses related to ergonomics and to assure a safer workplace for employees."

Partnership signatories will establish a national Ergonomic Work Group (EWG) consisting of representatives of USPS, the joint labor-management safety committees of the postal unions, and OSHA to oversee implementation of the ergonomic risk reduction process. The process will be tested in ten sites to start; the goal is to expand the program to 30 sites during calendar year 2003.

Participating sites, through their respective joint labor-management safety committees, will identify work activities for which ergonomic control processes will be developed, and will identify and make available best practices they have identified to other postal facilities with similar risk of ergonomic injuries.

Under the terms of the partnership, OSHA will provide certain incentives to those participating USPS sites. OSHA will provide the maximum allowable penalty reductions for ergonomic and other violations as provided for by OSHA regulation. OSHA will also offer deferrals in programmed inspections at partner sites, and will recognize partnership activities and successes.

In addition, the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association (VPPPA) will help identify mentors from VPP sites that have implemented effective ergonomic programs.

A measurement and evaluation system to measure the program's success in meeting its goals will be established. Offsite and onsite verification methods will also be utilized, including onsite evaluations performed by the Ergonomic Working Group at least twice a year. At least two independent onsite evaluations by OSHA will also be performed each year.