Postal Updates

PMG DeJoy makes USPS workspaces a priority

Aug 23, 2022, 12 PM

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

The postal workplace has become one of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s priorities.

DeJoy has described some of the United States Postal Service’s workspaces as “dungeons” and plans to spend $40 billion to make them better.

A better workplace is a key element in DeJoy’s 10-year Delivering for America plan.

“And yes, I say … let there be light and I mean that literally,” DeJoy said in the Eagle, a USPS publication.

“Let there be light inside postal plants, as this new environment will reduce stress, improve performance, lower costs and improve morale,” DeJoy said.

DeJoy’s planned transformation of postal buildings should make the Occupational Safety and Health Administration his natural ally.

But that does not seem to be happening.

Bloomberg Law, an online news outlet, disclosed Aug. 11 that the Postal Service has been demanding that OSHA, a Department of Labor agency, secure a federal court search order before its inspectors are allowed inside postal facilities.

In a recent six-week period, the Department of Labor has obtained a total of 13 court warrants against the USPS, according to Denisha Braxton, a Department of Labor spokesperson.

Bloomberg Law noted that the Postal Service and OSHA have been at odds over worker safety.  

In 2021, OSHA conducted 233 inspections at postal facilities and issued 65 citations for unsafe conditions.

In past years, OSHA has leveled large fines on the USPS over unsafe conditions found in inspections of mail-processing plants.

A number of the newly contested inspections deal with heat issues and are part of an OSHA campaign to protect workers who have to deal with hot summer weather.

Asked to comment on the dispute, postal spokesperson Darlene Casey told Linn’s Stamp News, “The Postal Service’s policy is to work cooperatively with Occupational Safety and Health Administration representatives.”

“This policy is not new, but rather it is long standing,” Casey said.

“Consistent with this policy, the Postal Service routinely provides access to OSHA to inspect a postal facility, whenever OSHA has a good-faith basis for seeking such access and so long as the proposed inspection is reasonably tailored to such basis,” she said.

It is apparent, however, that there is disagreement between OSHA and the USPS over where and when inspections should be conducted.

Bloomberg Law said the USPS recently sought to block an inspection at a Nebraska facility because it would “disrupt operations.”

The USPS is contesting five cases that involve heat citations, Bloomberg Law said, citing warrants OSHA filed in California, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico.

Bloomberg Law also noted that OSHA is pressing the USPS over heat stress complaints from workers because many mail carriers work outdoors and need protection from hot weather.

“The Postal Service can and does exercise the right to deny entry when OSHA is unable to explain and identify a reasonable basis for entry into its facilities,” Bloomberg Law quoted Casey as saying.

She added that the USPS “has never refused to allow OSHA to enter one of our facilities where OSHA has properly obtained a warrant.”

When Linn’s asked how the USPS could square DeJoy’s concerns about postal workplaces with the agency’s demands for search warrants, Casey said, “We don’t have any additional comment beyond the statement we provided.”

Bloomberg Law said OSHA rarely has to secure warrants to inspect most workplaces.

Small businesses are most often the ones that try to block inspections, not large multi-state corporations or federal agencies, Bloomberg Law said.

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