Was failure of methane detection system at Pontiac plant related to 5 employee deaths?

The USPS Inspector General has issued a report detailing the failure of the methane detection system (MDS) at the Pontiac, Michigan processing center. The OIG investigation was prompted by a complaint which “identified five employee deaths during a 14 month period”. The OIG report says “We have not correlated these deaths to the safety concern at this time, but are continuing work in this area. However, we are reporting this issue with the methane detection system for your immediate action.”

uspsoigThe Pontiac facility is situated on a “brownfields” site, which was formerly the location of a vehicle manufacturing plant that included a foundry. Among the numerous hazardous substances underneath the building are some that can produce poisonous, explosive methane gas. The building was designed so that any methane entering the building would be vented away, and a warning system (the MDS) was installed to monitor methane levels. The MDS was originally maintained by a contractor. In October 2014, the local USPS maintenance staff took over the management of the MDS system. Five months later, in March 2015, the system stopped working properly.

The OIG report says “Based on our observations and review of the MDS log book, the methane detection system has not functioned properly since March 2015.” It also says that USPS management agreed with the OIG findings and recommendations, but “stated there were never health concerns regarding the employees at the Michigan Metroplex.” The report doesn’t explain how management could have known that, given the lack of a functioning detection system.

The OIG recommended that USPS management:

1. Complete a review of the methane detection system to resolve any issues.
2. Establish an ongoing process to independently validate the results of the methane detection system on a periodic basis.

Management agreed with the recommendations, but said that the review would not be completed until May 31, 2016, while the target date for independently validating the MDS system is October 31, 2016.

Video: Widow of California Postal Worker Denied Death Benefits

An East Bay widow whose husband died after he sustained a serious injury at work is fighting for tens of thousands of dollars in benefits she believes the government owes her.

Twice Larnie Macasieb filed claims with the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs after her husband Sam died.

The government says there is not enough evidence to prove what happened. Records show postal service personnel blocked law enforcement from the facility, rendering them unable to conduct an investigation.

Source: Widow of Postal Worker Denied Death Benefits | NBC Bay Area

OSHA: USPS forced Iowa letter carriers to work in excessive heat

From the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

Employer name: U.S. Postal Service, Ottumwa, Iowa

Citations issued: Oct. 23, 2015

Investigation findings: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Des Moines Area Office cited the postal facility for three safety and health violations, one repeated, one serious and one other-than-serious.

oshaThe citations follow a July 2015 OSHA investigation of a complaint alleging a mail carrier reported experiencing heat illness symptoms and requested relief from completing his route on June 10. OSHA’s investigation found the carrier was directed to complete the route, despite feeling ill. The heat index that afternoon exceeded 100 degrees. The continued exposure put the employee in imminent danger of further illness. During its investigation, the agency found that a mail carrier was hospitalized for heat illness on July13. The carrier had also asked for relief due to feeling ill, and was directed to complete the route.

OSHA cited the employer for one repeated violation for exposing workers to excessive heat while delivering the mail. USPS was cited for a similar violation in Independence, Missouri, after a worker died of heat related illness in 2014. OSHA also found carriers could not readily summon emergency assistance.

OSHA has a heat safety campaign to educate employers and workers about heat-related illness and a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites.

Quote: “When a worker says they are experiencing heat related illness and need assistance, employers must respond and take appropriate precautions. If not quickly addressed, heat exhaustion can quickly become heat stroke, and that can be deadly,” said Larry Davidson, OSHA’s area director in Des Moines.

Proposed Penalties: $46,600

View Citations here*.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the Agency’s or the agency’s Des Moines Area Office at 515-284-4701.

OSHA fines USPS in Greenville, SC $79K for willful safety violations

From the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

Employer name: U.S. Postal Service, 204 Fairforest Way, Greenville, South Carolina 29607

Citations issued: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued one willful and two serious safety citations to the Postal Service on Sept. 14.

Investigation findings: The willful citation was issued for exposing employees to struck-by hazards by blocking and restricting traffic flow in aisles that are shared by powered industrial trucks and pedestrians. The serious violations include allowing employees to operate a forklift without using seat belts and exposing workers to falls from heights up to 8 feet.

Proposed penalties: $79,900

oshaQuote: “Exposing employees to being hit by vehicular traffic while working in warehouses and distribution centers is never acceptable,” said Darlene Fossum, director of OSHA’s Columbia Area Office. “Management must ensure safety is the top priority when expanding, modifying and consolidating working environments.”

Citations can be viewed at: http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/osha/OSHA20151818fs.pdf*

APWU: Postal Subcontractors Seek Exemption that Threatens Safety on the Roads

08/27/2015Imagine the danger posed by a sleep-deprived driver of an 18-wheel tractor-trailer – whether he’s on the highway or driving through your neighborhood.

Despite the hazard, private subcontractors that haul mail for the U.S. Postal Service are seeking an exemption from federal safety rules that prohibit commercial drivers from operating a truck for more than 14 hours after a 10-hour break. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is seeking comments on the request, which must be submitted by Sept. 21.

“In their brazen pursuit of the almighty dollar, these contractors would risk the lives of their employees and tens of thousands of other motorists and pedestrians,” said Michael O. Foster, director of the Motor Vehicle Service Craft. “In addition, the exemption would make it easier and cheaper to outsource USPS work,” he said.

apwudefault“Fortunately, we can do something about it,” Foster added. “I urge everyone who cares about safety on the road to submit a comment opposing the exemption.” Click here to make a comment before Sept. 21.

The group seeking the exemption, the National Star Route Mail Contractors Association (NSRMCA), represents approximately 17,000 small companies that transport mail for the Postal Service in trucks of various sizes. In 2005, the contractors association sought and won an exemption – with the help of the Postal Service – on a previous safety rule.

“Many of Star Route companies are so small that their drivers are exempt from drug and alcohol tests that U.S. Postal Service drivers must take,” Foster said. “Clearly, this amplifies the danger.

“Save a life. Oppose the exemption,” he said.

Video: Lessons learned from mail carrier’s tragic death

The crash on an emergency lane on U.S. 62 is a reminder for drivers to use caution when approaching a postal worker. Paula Brown of Fredonia, Kentucky was killed while delivering mail. A Chevrolet Tahoe was traveling east bound and hit the back of Brown’s Jeep Cherokee. Her SUV went into a nearby ditch.

U.S. Postal Service spokesman David Walton says drivers could help out a lot if they’d pay more attention. There are many blind spots and curvy roads. Oftentimes there is no room for a carrier to get over and be safe from oncoming traffic.

Brown worked as a mail carrier for 24 years. She knew mail delivery so well that she trained other rural post offices on how to stay safe.

WPSD Local 6: Your news, weather, and sports authority

Source: Lessons learned from mail carrier’s tragic death – WPSD Local 6: Your news, weather, and sports authority

USPS St Louis mail processing center again cited by OSHA for fire extinguisher, electrical violations

oshaThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a St Louis postal facility for repeated safety violations:

Employer name: United States Postal Service

Investigation site: 1720 Market Street, St. Louis, Missouri

Date investigation initiated and what prompted inspection: On Jan.13, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated an inspection of a United States Postal Service mail processing site after receiving a complaint alleging unsafe working conditions at the facility.

Investigation findings: Investigators found blocked portable fire extinguishers, alarm systems and electrical equipment such as circuit breaker boxes and transformers throughout the ground floor of the mail center. OSHA issued two repeated safety violations.

“These hazards found throughout the mail center are completely unacceptable. The threat of fire inside this structure exists and set procedures to safeguard this equipment must be continuously monitored and enforced,” said Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St. Louis. “Employers that are cited for so many safety violations repeatedly demonstrate a lack of commitment to employee safety and health.”

OSHA previously cited the same facility for these violations in 2014. OSHA issues repeated violations when an employer has been previously cited for the same or a similar violation in the past five years.

Proposed Penalties: $45,000

APWU Demands Info on Emergency Procedures

From the American Postal Workers Union:

Samuel Macasieb died after postal workers followed USPS procedure, and didn’t call 911 as he lay dying.

Director of Industrial Relations Tony D. McKinnon Sr. has asked the Postal Service to explain its protocols for providing emergency medical assistance after learning that a Bay Area postal employee lay dying for as much as 50 minutes before 911 was called. The incident, which occurred in August, came to light in November, when the local NBC television affiliate aired a detailed expose of situation.

“No one saw how Macasieb, 59, was injured but coworkers later said they found him lying on his back, barely conscious, with blood coming from his mouth and ears,” the station reported. “Apparent head trauma left him incapacitated. According to an internal postal service report, employees didn’t call 911 right away. They proceeded to contact several supervisors and managers who then alerted the onsite postal police department, who finally contacted 911. Details in the report show that up to 53 minutes elapsed from the time Macasieb was found to when emergency medical personnel were contacted.

“According to the USPS, this chain of events wasn’t a mistake. It was a policy,” the television report noted. “Employees are routinely instructed not to call 911, but to alert a supervisor first.”

The Postal Service’s written policy says, “Only the Postal Police are to initiate the 911 procedure.”

Samuel Macasieb later died, but the APWU was not notified of the death.

APWU Demands Info on Emergency Procedures | APWU.

USPS found to be at fault in Missouri letter carrier’s heat death in 2012

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — When a mail carrier died on the job, his wife blamed the Post Office for not taking his concerns about excessive heat seriously. The widow finally has closure two years after his death.

All Kay Watzlawick has of her husband John are memories. They would’ve been married 35 years this year and she remembers him fondly, even when recounting disagreements.

“I’m not perfect and he wasn’t either. I miss those arguments believe it or not,” she said.

John Watzlawick was a devoted mail carrier of 28 years. He died delivering mail on a blistering hot day in July 2012.

Read more: USPS found to be at fault in metro mailman’s heat death from 2012 | fox4kc.com.

Video: Postal workers hold rally for safer working conditions after death of letter carrier

WASHINGTON –

On this Martin Luther King Day, a group of U.S. Postal Service workers held a rally at the MLK Memorial. They are calling for safer job conditions and justice for letter carriers injured or killed while delivering in the dark.

It follows the death of 26-year old Tyson Barnette in Landover, Md. He was shot and killed on November 23, 2013 while working a route after dark.

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Barnette’s family came in from South Carolina to show their support. His mother, Bridget, had a message for the Postmaster General.

She says, “Don’t let another life be taken by something that can be fixed as easily as pushing the (shift) times back in the morning.”

Read more: Postal workers hold rally for safer working conditions after dea – DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG.