Our objective was to review and assess the effectiveness of management’s controls over reporting accidents.
Postal Service management is responsible and accountable for the prevention of accidents and responsible for controlling losses, such as ensuring quality of performance and operating within cost and budget guidelines. Management’s role is to share responsibility for the safety and health of employees.
The Employee Health and Safety (EHS) application is used to enter and manage accident, injury, and claim information related to vehicle and industrial incidents. The application included information for 455,099 accidents from fiscal years (FY) 2016 to 2020, of which 144,607 (32 percent) were motor vehicle accidents and 310,492 (68 percent) were industrial accidents.
The Injury Compensation Performance Analysis System (ICPAS) identifies workers compensation costs associated with employee injuries. The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employees’ Compensation Operations and Management Portal (ECOMP) allows federal workers and their employers to electronically file workers compensation forms.
The Solution for Enterprise Asset Management (SEAM) application is used to manage vehicle maintenance, repair, and work orders. Over the same five-year time period, accident-related repair work totaled 147,192 orders and cost about $129.9 million.
The National Performance Assessment (NPA) application collects performance-related metrics from source systems across the organization. These metrics are translated into web-based balanced scorecards that can be used to monitor performance. One of these metrics is the “Total Accidents” indicator, which measures the total count of all accidents in order to achieve established targets to reduce accidents. Of all the NPA indicators, “Total Accidents” is one of the more heavily weighted in the NPA scorecard in determining facility and supervisor overall performance score.
We found that the Postal Service did not always effectively manage controls over reporting motor vehicle and industrial accidents. Supervisors did not always report or timely report motor vehicle and industrial accidents in EHS during FYs 2016 through 2020. We found accident-related motor vehicle work orders did not always have corresponding accident reports in EHS, and accidents were not reported in EHS within 24 hours of notification of the accident/injury. Further, management did not always perform or have an efficient process in place to reconcile and track accident-related activity to identify unreported personal injuries. Specifically,
- Of the 147,192 nationwide accident repair-related work orders completed in SEAM, 108,126 (73 percent) did not have corresponding accident reports in EHS. Also, there were 23,301 (14 percent) accidents not reported in EHS within 24 hours of notification of the accident/injury. These accidents were reported from 2 to 1,185 days late. There were 1,329 instances where the accident was reported between 31 and 365 days after the event, and 75 instances where over 365 days had elapsed.
- When we compared accidents in EHS to determine whether they were recorded in SEAM, we found 178,389 different motor vehicle and industrial accidents recorded in EHS involving 105,139 vehicles that were not reflected in SEAM repair work orders. This could indicate that damaged vehicles were not repaired or there may be miscoding issues.
- The Postal Service’s reported personal injury industrial accidents decreased each fiscal year from 57,892 in FY 2016 to 46,589 in FY 2020. However, it was difficult to determine whether it was due to implemented safety procedures or unreported accidents because EHS and ICPAS did not interface with one another and we were unable to identify a unique identifier shared by both systems that would assist in reconciling the data.
- In discussions with eight districts, safety management did not conduct reconciliations between accident information in EHS and accident-related vehicle repairs in SEAM to identify unreported accidents or efficiently reconcile industrial personal injury accidents with injury claims to identify unreported personal injuries.
These conditions occurred due to a variety of reasons, such as unclear or contradictory guidance; and limitations within systems used to track accident, injury, claim, maintenance, and repair information.
Not reporting accidents or injuries in EHS may lead to inaccurate NPA “Total Accidents” indicator scores for facilities, which undermines management’s ability to accurately recognize performance. Additionally, unreported damage to vehicles could lead to unrepaired vehicles, drivers operating vehicles with undetected safety hazards, and a poor reflection on the Postal Service’s brand and image to the public. Furthermore, by not reconciling and tracking accident-related activity, it was impossible for management to accurately manage motor vehicle repair costs stemming from accidents. As a result of accident-related work orders in SEAM not having a corresponding accident report in EHS, we estimated the Postal Service incurred over $5.6 million annually in unsupported questioned costs.
The Postal Service’s Delivering for America: Our Vision and Ten-Year Plan to Achieve Financial Sustainability and Service Excellence (Ten-Year Plan), released March 23, 2021, emphasizes its goal to enhance safety programs that includes empowering employees to identify, record, and report safety concerns in real time with a goal of reducing all accidents (motor vehicle and industrial). These issues, if addressed, will help accomplish that goal.
We recommended management:
- Reiterate to all employees to promptly notify their supervisor if involved in a work-related accident, regardless of severity; and to all supervisors to report all accidents in EHS within 24 hours of the accident/injury or notification.
- Review, update, and communicate policies and procedures related to accident reporting to ensure they accurately and clearly reflect the accident reporting processes.
- Identify solutions to interface EHS and SEAM; or implement an automated reconciliation process between EHS and SEAM, and EHS and ECOMP to ensure all motor vehicle and personal injury industrial accidents, respectively, are reported and recorded.
- Reiterate and provide training to vehicle maintenance facility personnel on the process to modify individual line items on work orders in SEAM to differentiate between scheduled maintenance and accident-related repairs.
- Identify ways to actively manage corrective actions to verify and ensure completion when employees are involved in an accident.