The U.S. Postal Service has more than 30,000 leased and owned retail facilities nationwide. About 2,600 of them are in the Capital Metro Area. The Post Office lobby is the principal business office of the Postal Service and the only close-up view of postal operations for many customers. Its appearance directly affects the Postal Service’s public image. The Postal Service must maintain a safe environment for both employees and customers and follow safety laws set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Our objective was to determine if Postal Service management adhered to building maintenance, safety and security standards, and employee working condition requirements at retail facilities. We reviewed 20 facilities in the Capital Metro Area and assessed items related to building appearance, safety and security, customer complaints, and workplace environment and violence. We also assessed whether each facility was handicap accessible. This is the first in a series of audits assessing retail facility conditions nationwide.
What the OIG Found
The Postal Service must improve adherence to building maintenance, safety and security standards, and employee working condition requirements at its retail facilities. We reviewed 20 facilities and found:
- Eleven (55 percent) had lighting issues;
- Ten (50 percent) had building appearance issues;
- Eighteen (90 percent) had potential OSHA violations related to building safety and security;
- Eighteen (90 percent) did not maintain a customer complaint log or monitor how promptly complaints were resolved;
- Sixteen (80 percent) did not display posters informing employees what to do when injured at work;
- Six (30 percent) did not display posters related to proper conduct on Postal Service property;
- Eight (40 percent) had security issues; and
- All 20 complied with handicap accessibility requirements.
These conditions were due, in part, to landlords failing to perform or adequately complete requested repairs. Also, because of competing priorities, local management did not focus on cleaning and general maintenance and repairs; concerns for health, safety, and security; local customer complaints; and ensuring required posters were displayed at facilities. Additionally, some repairs were not a priority due to budget constraints.
Finally, although the Postal Service periodically inspects building safety and maintenance, it does not assess building appearance and other important factors that impact the overall retail experience, such as cleanliness and needed repairs.
Attention to these areas will reduce the Postal Service’s exposure to OSHA fines and penalties; poor employee morale and increased turnover; risk of injuries to customers and employees; and related costs such as workers’ compensation claims, loss of work and productivity, and lawsuits. Poorly maintained and unappealing lobbies can also reduce brand loyalty, which impacts revenue.
Local management began taking corrective action by addressing some of the building safety issues such as unblocking emergency exits; and isplaying missing workplace environment, workplace violence, and OSHA posters identified during our review.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management develop an action plan to address all building maintenance and safety and security issues identified during our review. We also recommended management provide training to improve building maintenance, cleanliness, safety and security standards, management of local customer complaints, and the display of required posters.
Finally, we recommended management develop a process to improve coordination among Facilities personnel, facility managers, and landlords to timely resolve repair issues and reassess the safety inspection process to include a review of facility security, maintenance, repair, and cleanliness issues.