CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal inspectors have fined the U.S. Postal Service more than $200,000 for what they say were willful violations of electrical safety standards at a mail processing facility in Huntington.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued three willful violations and one serious violation and proposed a total of $212,500 in fines, the agency said in a news release.
Nationally, OSHA in July for the first time used its authority to seek "enterprise-wide relief" to stop safety violations at Postal Service facilities around the country.
Agency officials said OSHA inspections revealed numerous problems involving similar safety standards for training and electrical hazards, including eight willful and four serious violations that drew more than $500,000 fines for a facility in Rhode Island.
In Huntington, OSHA launched an investigation in April after receiving a complaint alleging the hazards involving electrical mail-sorting equipment.
The three citations allege that the facility did not properly train employees, use safe practices for dealing with electrical parts, or provide proper electrical protective equipment. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
The serious citation was issued for failing to use lockout procedures that prevent electrical parts from being inadvertently energized. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
"These citations and sizable fines reflect the Postal Service's failure to equip its workers with the necessary knowledge and skills to safely work with live electrical parts," said OSHA chief David Michaels. "The Postal Service knew that proper and effective training was needed for the safety of its workers, but did not provide it."
The Postal Service has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the agency's findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Postal Service spokeswoman Cathy Yarosky said her agency is reviewing the OSHA citations and has not made a decision about appealing them.
"We will review OSHA's concerns and make necessary adjustments to continue to ensure a safe working environment for our employees," Yarosky said in a prepared statement.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.