March 10, 2023
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission recently vacated four Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for letter carriers in Benton, Arkansas; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; and Martinsburg, West Virginia, exposed to excessive heat. The commissioners concluded that OSHA failed to identify economically and technically feasible prevention measures the Postal Service could have taken.
In a fifth USPS case, the panel concluded that a Des Moines, Iowa, station failed to provide heat safety training for City Carrier Assistants (CCAs) and sent the case back to a review commission administrative law judge (ALJ).
The review commission relied on Postal Service officials’ predictions that the organization will “run out of cash” in 2024 and cannot afford time-based interventions that include acclimatization, reducing time outdoors, and work/rest cycles.
Between September 2016 and January 2017, OSHA issued five citations to the Postal Service, each alleging that it committed repeat violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause (§5(a)(1)) by exposing employees to “excessive heat” hazards. In each case, a letter carrier began feeling ill while delivering mail and was treated at a hospital or an urgent care clinic.
The Postal Service contested the citations, and all five cases were referred to a single ALJ. The ALJ held five separate hearings and an additional national hearing to consider evidence common to all five cases.