• on Aug 9th, 2010 in Labor | 6 comments
    5,214 workers died on the job in the U.S. in 2008 "With every one of these fatalities, the lives of a worker's family members were shattered and forever changed. We can't forget that fact." -Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor
    Safety is a key component of all Postal Service operations, activities, and facilities. Nonetheless, safety issues do occur in the Postal Service as in other organizations. Recently, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors found electrical safety violations in several Postal Service Processing and Distribution Facilities (P&DCs). Electrical Safety issues at Postal P&DCs identified by OSHA include: •Electricity problems in facilities •Failure to adequately lock out machines' power sources to prevent unexpected start-ups •Inadequate training for employees exposed to electrical hazards •Failure to provide electrical protective equipment to protect employees from arc-flash hazards and electrical current •Failure to use appropriate safety signs, safety symbols or accident prevent tags to warn employees about electrical hazards As a result of the findings, OSHA has announced that it will inspect the over 300 P&DCs nationwide. But OSHA does not consider only electricity–related safety. Other areas of concern include: •Employee workplace rights •Chemical Hazard Communication •How To Prepare For Workplace Emergencies •Personal Protective Equipment •Biological agents There are also many instances of praise for the Postal Service from OSHA including: A 2009 inspection for safety levels at the El Paso Postal Distribution Center that resulted in merit recognition in the Voluntary Protection Programs for its employee health and safety achievements. Also in 2009, the Postal Service's Evergreen Detached Carrier Unit in Hillsboro, OR, received OSHA's highest safety recognition award. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Audit Engineering and Facilities team.
  • on Jun 7th, 2010 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 13 comments
    A number of media news articles in the last year have examined reductions in Post Office retail hours around the country. They report that some Post Offices are cutting back or eliminating Saturday hours, opening late in the morning or closing earlier in the afternoon during the week. The Postal Service faces significant legal and political constraints when it tries to close Post Offices, but faces few constraints when it acts to cut back on the hours a facility is open. However, eliminating hours amounts to a partial scaling back of retail service. When contacted by media, local Postal Service spokespersons have said districts have no specific targets for reducing hours and potential savings have not been calculated. After notices are posted that a Post Office plans to cut hours, some districts refuse to provide the media with a list of facilities where hours have been reduced, citing competitive issues relative to UPS and FedEx.

    Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), has come out against this approach, noting that cutting hours is a sure way to make the Postal Service’s financial condition worse. She said the Postal Service should be doing more to attract business, rather than making it more difficult for people to mail packages and letters because of reduced hours. So, is cutting Post Office hours the best way for the Postal Service to address declines in mail volume and the limits it faces on closing Post Offices? Is this part of a national Postal Service strategy or taking place solely by Post Offices on their own directive? Does the Postal Service owe the American people a real accounting of the service cuts it is making? What do you think? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Apr 12th, 2010 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 40 comments
    The Postal Service is required by law to “provide, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.” Consequently, the Postal Service has the largest retail presence in America with more than 32,000 leased or owned facilities located across the country. Today, alternate access channels are widely available. Customers can purchase stamps and access services at the Postal Service’s website www.usps.com, self-serve kiosks, grocery stores, retail outlets, and privately-operated shipper locations. Meanwhile, in the past decade, business and household mailers have increasingly turned to electronic media to transmit correspondence that was formerly sent through the postal system. In addition, a weakened economy has resulted in declining mail volume and revenue. The combination of the availability of alternative access and declining revenue requires the Postal Service to re-evaluate its retail network to eliminate growing excess capacity, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. In May 2009, the Postal Service began a national initiative, known as retail optimization, to consolidate its retail stations and branches in urban and suburban areas. Unlike some other retailers, the Postal Service can’t close their stores without generating public reaction. Closing just a small percentage of postal facilities can affect thousands of people and communities and is often questioned by those communities involved. As a result, there is a need for the Postal Service to work with stakeholders to balance their interests and optimize resources. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Network Optimization Team.

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