It took USPS eight months to change national 911 policy after employee’s death

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USPS ELM instructions on handling medical emergencies, retrieved June 28, 2015

Yesterday we learned that the widow of Oakland CA postal worker Samuel Macasieb, who died on the job after co-workers followed USPS policy and didn’t immediately call 911, has had to take legal action against the US Postal Service in order to claim the benefits she is entitled to. The lawyer arguing on behalf of Ms. Macasieb says that “Following the incident, according to the court documents, the government denied federal benefits to Samuel’s widow, claiming it was not work-related”. While most readers were already familiar with the Macasieb case from the extensive coverage it received last year, some weren’t. A number of those readers expressed disbelief that such a 911 policy had ever existed at a postal facility.

Not only did the local policy exist- the national policy that authorized it was still in effect up until just last month, ten months after Mr. Macasieb’s death. Even today, more than a month after the policy was supposedly changed, the online version of the DMM still instructs employees to “Notify security or other designee, who calls 911” in the event of a medical emergency.

Earlier this year, the USPS Office of Inspector General conducted its own investigation of the case, and found that

The local policy for the Bay-Valley District facility required the supervisor or an employee (if the supervisor was not in the immediate area) to call postal police when
someone needed emergency medical treatment. The local policy specified that only the postal police were allowed to call 911.

The OIG summarized the facts:

While on duty on August 8, 2014, a Postal Service employee sustained a head injury at a Bay-Valley District Postal Service facility in California. Two employees notified their
supervisors of the incident and one supervisor called the postal police once other managers arrived at the scene. It took about 12 minutes from the time the injured employee was found until the supervisor notified the postal police and 11 additional minutes for the postal police to initiate the call to 911 emergency services. The employee later died from his injuries.

According to the Postal Service’s national emergency services policy, when a medical emergency occurs the recommended procedure is to notify Postal Service security or another designee, who will then call 911. The Bay-Valley District facility policy required a supervisor or an employee (if the supervisor is not in the immediate area) to call the postal police.

Readers also questioned why employees would have even bothered to follow such a ridiculous rule- what could possibly happen to them if they had called 911? According to OSHA, one postal worker who called 911 to report a suspected carbon monoxide leak at a Missouri postal facility in 2009 was thrown in jail as a suspected terrorist at the instigation of USPS managers. From the lawsuit OSHA has filed on behalf of the employee:

From December 4, 2009 through March 15, 2010 and at times thereafter, Defendant’s managers engaged in a concerted effort to pressure the county prosecutor’s office to criminally prosecute Mr. Purviance because he had reported safety concerns. NDC managers referred to Mr. Purviance variously as a drug user, dangerous, unstable, and “a terrorist,” all without any factual basis. On March 30, 2010, with the indefinite suspension continuing, Mr. Purviance filed a complaint with OSHA alleging harassment by Defendant in violation of Purviance’s rights under Section 11(c) of the Act. On April 3, 2010, Purviance was arrested by Hazelwood Police on charges of making a terrorist threat and making a false report. Purviance was held in jail for approximately 18 hours before his attorney could arrange his release. All criminal charges against Mr. Purviance were ultimately dismissed.

 

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