A guest blog by VOCAL RCA
In the last few weeks, OSHA has cited the Postal Service for numerous safety violations including faulty electrical practices at processing facilities nationwide and recently opened up an investigation into a heat-related death in Boston, Massachusetts.
In a story by Sean Reilly, a writer for “Federal Times”, the United States Postal Service put postal employees, who perform electrical work, in danger of electrocution. A 2010 Labor Department, the parent agency of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), complaint was made after it was found that workers were not properly trained for the electrical work they were performing. The Postal Service is now responsible to overhaul its’ current practices for electrical work. The cost thus far has been $2 million, which has been set aside for protective wear. Another $5 million is intended for training for an estimated 20,000 employees. OSHA is also currently looking into the death of James Baldassarre,45, a letter carrier out of the Medford Post Office. After delivering in 95 degree heat, with a 62 percent humidity index, Mr. Baldassarre passed out at 5:40 p.m. near the Hyatt Place Hotel, according to a story by Jarret Bencks, a writer at boston.com. Mr. Baldassarre died later at Massachusetts General Hospital, he had worked for the Postal Service for 24 years. OSHA is looking to enact a federal standard for employees that work under extreme heat conditions, inside and outdoors. The amount of monies involved with introducing such standards are unknown at this time.
There is no doubt that the United States Postal Service will wind up paying millions of dollars to upgrade its’ vehicles. Driving the current long life vehicles (LLV’s), in double or triple digit weather, is no doubt contributing to many heat related illnesses’. There is no consistent air flow in LLV’s and the fan that is provided, to cool down, sputters hot air. With routes becoming longer, due to recent mail counts, mail carriers delivering during the current summer months are outdoors for several hours and are experiencing extreme heat that can elevate their body temperature to dangerous levels. Mr. Baldassarre even texted his wife that the heat was killing him, and felt like he was “going to die out here.” Postal workers are risking their lives every day while delivering in these conditions.
The Postal Service is putting its’ employees in danger by allowing its’ carriers to drive mobile microwaves and electrical personnel to work on faulty wiring without proper equipment or training. Post offices are being sold across the country and postal employees are being forced to work longer and harder than ever before. Meanwhile Congress is not moving fast enough to alleviate these problems and it is costing the Postal Service more money, when it is already losing $25 million a day. By trying to squeeze every penny, while paying into the “Health Retirement Benefit Fund”, the United States Postal Service is allowing its’ facilities to fall apart, and its’ workers to risk their lives while trying to earn a livable wage. There is no telling when Congress will commit to postal reform but in the meantime, postal workers are suffering, some with their lives’!
Vocal RCA is a Rural Carrier Associate