Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: (617) 565-2074
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the U.S. Postal Service mail processing facility in White River Junction for alleged willful and serious violations of safety and health standards following inspections conducted in response to employee complaints. The facility faces a total of $44,250 in proposed fines.
OSHA's inspections began in May and found that a machine used to process bulk mail was inadequately guarded against employees coming into contact with its moving parts, exposing employees to lacerations and fractures. The facility failed to provide adequate guarding even after a job safety analysis identified the hazard.
As a result of this condition, OSHA issued a willful citation, carrying a fine of $40,000. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
OSHA also found that employees and supervisors were handling and cleaning up spills of unknown materials from leaking containers in violation of Postal Service policy and without proper respiratory protection.
"The Postal Service requires that unidentified substances be handled by outside hazardous materials experts and OSHA standards require proper respiratory protection when employees respond to spills," said OSHA Area Director Rosemarie Ohar. "Although no injuries have yet resulted, failure to follow these safeguards places first responder employees at risk of inhaling unknown and potentially hazardous substances."
OSHA issued two serious citations, with $4,250 in fines, for these hazards. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The White River Junction post office has15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Concord, N.H., area office, which has jurisdiction for federal workplaces in Vermont. Its telephone number is (603) 225-1629.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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