May 1, 2014 – (This article appears in the May-June 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By Tony D. McKinnon Sr., Industrial Relations Director
Our members want to be assured that we will leave work each day as healthy as we were when we arrived.
And that’s not a matter of luck. It’s a contractual right: Article 14.1 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which governs Safety and Health, says, “It is the responsibility of management to provide safe working conditions in all present and future installations and to develop a safe working force. The Union will cooperate and assist management to live up to this responsibility.”
The Industrial Relations Department is responsible for administering the joint Safety and Health program with the USPS, and it is a top priority.
An important outstanding issue involves electrical safety hazards. The Industrial Relations Department has been informed by some of our Regional Safety Representatives that the USPS has failed audits of electrical safety practices and is violating a settlement made last year with the APWU and the Department of Labor.
On June 28, 2013, the parties signed an unprecedented nationwide agreement that settled a series of OSHA complaints initiated by the APWU regarding violations of safe electrical work practices.
The agreement marked OSHA’s first “enterprise-wide” settlement and followed a four-year campaign by the APWU and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to force postal management to address egregious electrical safety hazards at postal facilities across the country. Over the course of the four-year campaign, the Postal Service accumulated millions of dollars in fines for continual non-compliance with OSHA’s electrical safety rules.
The 2013 agreement outlined the steps the USPS was required to make to avoid even greater fines. As a result of the settlement, the USPS completely revised its policies and procedures on electrical work.
The Industrial Relations Department has been discussing the implementation of the agreement with the help of our 14 experienced and knowledgeable Regional Safety and Health representatives.
Unfortunately, the USPS has refused to approve travel requests for our safety representatives, preferring to use local people for audits, in direct contrast to OSHA regulations, which state that audits should be conducted by people outside the area.
In addition to following up on the electrical safety issue, we’ve been working with management to establish a Standard Operating Procedure for USPS-APWU District Safety Committee Training. In March we completed a draft Participant Guide and hope to sign off on it soon. We hope it will be used to train Local Safety Committees.
Although the headquarters-level Joint APWU/USPS Safety Committee is required to meet at least once a quarter, the APWU is committed to meeting as often as necessary to resolve safety issues.