Settlement Agreement Between USPS and OSHA - Electrical Safety -

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Settlement Agreement Between USPS and OSHA - Electrical Safety

July�s been a bit busy � lots of traveling for work � but I wanted to post about the settlement agreement between the United States Postal Service (USPS) and OSHA in July. Thanks to Fierce Government for the initial information and link to the settlement document.

USPS received seven willful violations for a facility in Providence, RI, but the remainder of the violations from inspections over the last few years at 42 facilities were re-classified as part of the settlement agreement from �willful� to �serious.� USPS has entered into an �enterprise-wide� compliance agreement with OSHA regarding its electrical safety work practices and written programs.

As part of the settlement agreement, USPS was provided with a Training Implementation Plan and required to develop a new and improved Electrical Work Plan (EWP). According to the settlement document, published on the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) webpage, �No employee shall be permitted to perform unsupervised electrical work until he/she has demonstrated knowledge, skills, and competency appropriate to the facility, task and equipment where the work will be performed.�

Energized electrical work includes troubleshooting and voltage testing, but these can only be conducted when equipment is energized, so the prohibited work does not include these tasks. According to Fierce Government, �USPS will assign a trained electrical work plan coordinator at each facility and require the use of electrically protective gloves and full body arc flash protection for energized work, including voltage testing.� Only qualified USPS employees are permitted to conduct energized work using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Affected USPS employees (i.e. those not qualified to do electrical work but will be working in close proximity to someone who is conducting energized electrical work) are also required to receive OSHA compliance training for recognition of electrical safety hazards and other topics as identified in the Training Implementation Plan.

The abatement of hazards throughout USPS facilities consisted of the following:

  • Training
  • Obtaining necessary PPE (i.e. electrically-protective gloves and full-body arc flash protection) 
  • Labeling electrical hazards
  • Full implementation of the EWP

The settlement agreement requires audits of 25% of facilities with automated mail-processing equipment where maintenance regularly takes place. These are listed to include Processing and Distribution Centers, National Distribution Centers, and International Service Centers. The audits must consist of the following per the settlement agreement:

  • Physical observation of the facility
  • Observation of employees doing work subject to the EWP
  • Assessment of the knowledge, skills, and understanding of employ

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum, enjoy some pictures of how mail processing was done circa 1945 and how it is done now.

Mail processing circa 1945 in the Post Office Department - image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.
Mail processing as it occurs today in Processing and Distribution Centers throughout USPS - image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution. 
It's amazing to see what technology can do, as far as improving processes and. Courtesy of the University of Delaware Physics Department, here are some intriguing quotes about technology and its effect on modern life.

"Technology and production can be great benefactors of man, but they are mindless instruments, and if undirected they careen along with a momentum of their own. In our country, they pulverize everything in their path -- the landscape, the natural environment, history and tradition, the amenities and civilities, the privacy and spaciousness of life, much beauty, and the fragile, slow-growing social structures that bind us together." CHARLES A. REICH, The Greening of America, 1970. (S&S)

"Technology was developed to prevent exhausting labor. It is now dedicated to trivial conveniences." B.F. SKINNER. (Citadel)

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