USPS OIG Report: Facility Condition Reviews – Northeast Area

Background
ne-facility_condition-reviewThe U.S. Postal Service has more than 30,000 leased and owned retail facilities nationwide. About 3,851 of these facilities are in the Northeast Area. The Post Office lobby is the principal business office of the Postal Service. The lobby’s appearance directly affects the Postal Service’s image because it is the only close-up view of postal operations for many customers. The Postal Service must maintain a safe environment for employees and customers and follow safety laws set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Our objective was to determine if Postal Service management adhered to building maintenance, safety and security standards, and employee working condition requirements at retail facilities. We reviewed 31 facilities in the Northeast Area and assessed items related to building safety, security, appearance, customer complaints, workplace environment, and workplace violence. We also assessed whether each facility was handicap accessible.

This is the third in a series of audits assessing retail facility conditions nationwide.

What the OIG Found
The Postal Service must improve adherence to building maintenance, safety and security standards, and employee working condition requirements at its retail facilities. We reviewed 31 facilities and found:

  • Sixteen (52 percent) had building safety and security issues;
  • Seventeen (55 percent) had building maintenance issues;
  • Twenty-four (77 percent) did not maintain a customer complaint log or monitor how promptly complaints are resolved;
  • Twenty-nine (94 percent) did not display workplace environment posters, such as those that inform employees what to do when injured at work;
  • Sixteen (52 percent) did not display workplace violence posters, such as Zero Tolerance Policy and Reporting Procedures;
  • Twenty-three (74 percent) had potential OSHA violations related to building safety and security; and
  • One (3 percent) did not provide handicap accessibility.

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Conditions related to building safety, security, and maintenance occurred because of competing priorities and local management’s failure to focus on cleaning and general maintenance and repairs. In addition, employees of one district office did not use a safety checklist as required and no district office conducted facility security checks. Management did not address other deficiencies due to budget constraints or the lessor’s refusal to perform requested repairs.

Based on potentially finable OSHA violations found at statistically sampled facilities, we estimated the monetary value of these violations at retail facilities across the Northeast Area would be $10.6 million.

Attention to these areas will reduce the Postal Service’s exposure to OSHA fines and penalties; poor employee morale and increased turnover; risk of injuries to customers and employees; and related costs such as workers’ compensation claims, loss of work and productivity, and lawsuits. Poorly maintained and unappealing lobbies can also reduce brand loyalty, which impacts revenue.

Local management began taking corrective action by immediately addressing certain deficiencies brought to their attention during site visits, such as displaying missing posters, unblocking exits, and securing unlocked vehicles.

What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management develop an action plan to address all building maintenance, safety, security, workplace environment, and workplace violence policy issues identified during our audit; and provide training to improve building maintenance, housekeeping, safety and security standards, management of local customer complaints, and the display of required posters.

In previous reports on facility conditions in the Capital Metro and Great Lakes areas, we recommended management develop a process to improve coordination among Facilities personnel, managers, and lessors to timely resolve repair issues; reassess the safety inspection process to include an assessment of facility security, repair, and cleanliness issues; and enforce the requirement to have facility personnel perform housekeeping inspections. Therefore, we are not making recommendations to address these issues in this report.

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Source: USPS Office of Inspector General

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