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Personal protective equipment and electrical safety at the USPS

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an essential part of many workplace environments. Federal law imposes duties on employers to take certain steps to make sure employees have what they need.

In the Baltimore area and across the nation, this begins with conducting hazard assessments. Once hazards are identified, employers must also provide any necessary PPE and train employees in how to use it.

Sometimes, however, employers fail to live up to their duties to adequately protect employees. One of those employers is the United States Postal Service (USPS). Federal safety regulators have cited the USPS for serious electrical safety violations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $6 million in fines for these violations. Obviously that is a lot of money, especially for an entity like the USPS that has had such financial struggles.

But financial struggles do not excuse workplace safety violations. Employees who are harmed by these violations may be eligible for workers' compensation and other remedies. But the goals of workplace safety laws are not merely to compensate workers for injuries, but also to prevent such injuries wherever reasonably possible.

So what types of PPE must the USPS make sure to provide its employees in order to bring electrical safety standards into compliance? The equipment to be provided includes such items as gloves with electrical protection.

Under an agreement with the postal workers union and OSHA, the USPS is also required to retrain employees who do electrical work. The USPS must also relabel electrical equipment with appropriate safety warnings and take other steps to ensure improved electrical safety.

Source: Workplace Safety News, "Postal Service improving electrical safety; should you do the same?" July 11, 2013

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