Scarborough postal distribution center cited for safety violations

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SCARBOROUGH — The U.S. Postal Service was fined $430,000 for “willful and repeated” safety violations, including a $10,000 fine for one repeat violation, at its distribution center on Postal Service Way.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it began an inspection of the center in December 2009 after repeated complaints from employees. OSHA said 522 employees are assigned to the facility.

The inspection found that employees were working with or near live electrical equipment without adequate training, protective equipment and safety warning signs.

OSHA also found that access to electrical panels was blocked in several places by stored materials, which resulted in the fine for a repeat citation. It was the same situation USPS had been cited for in November 2007 at a facility in Toledo, Ohio.

“The Postal Service knew that proper and effective training was needed for the safety of its workers but did not provide it,” Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said in a press release.

Since January, OSHA has cited 13 other Postal Service facilities for similar safety violations. The total cost of the fines is nearly $2.7 million, according to the American Postal Workers Union.

In total, OSHA issued six willful citations to the Scarborough facility for conditions that exposed workers to electric shock, arc flashes and arc blasts, any of which had the potential to cause injuries or deaths.

“Our goal is to get them into compliance,” OSHA spokesman John Chavez. “One of the things that the Postal Service has to do is to abate these violations.”

Chavez said it is possible OSHA will reinspect the center, however he said it was against OSHA regulations to provide prior notification of inspections.

“These were willful citations. With these conditions, there was definitely a possibility of injury or death,” Chavez said.

USPS has 15 days to respond to the citation and can contest the findings.

“We’re going to review it,” said Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the Northern New England district of USPS.

He would not say whether the Postal Service would settle or contest the findings.

“The U.S. Postal Service places the safety and well being of its employees as a top priority,” Rizzo said in a statement.

He added that USPS would review OSHA’s concerns and make necessary adjustments to ensure a safe working environment for employees.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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