The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $430,000 in fines against the U.S. Postal Service, saying it exposed workers to electrical hazards at the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Scarborough.

“The Postal Service knew that proper and effective training was needed for the safety of its workers but did not provide it,” said OSHA’s David Michaels, in a news release Monday.

After complaints from workers, OSHA began its inspection of the mail processing plant on Dec. 29.

Inspectors found workers near live electrical equipment without proper training or qualifications, protective equipment or warning signs.

Workers were vulnerable to electrical explosions and shock, but no injuries were reported, said Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor in Boston.

The inspection led OSHA to cite the Postal Service for six “willful” violations — the most serious level of offense, defined as violations committed “with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.”

The citations were delivered Friday to the Postal Service, which has 15 business days to make necessary changes or contest the findings.

Of the $430,000 in proposed fines, $10,000 is for OSHA’s finding that access to electrical panels was blocked by materials stored next to them. OSHA says it issued a repeat citation because the Postal Service had been cited in November 2007 for the same type of hazard at a facility in Toledo, Ohio.

“The Postal Service places the safety and well-being of its employees as a top priority,” said Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the northern New England district of the U.S. Postal Service.

Rizzo said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the Postal Service twice as safe for employees as other delivery organizations.

“Regardless, one accident, or the potential for one accident — on the road, in a post office or a mail processing plant – is one too many,” Rizzo said.

“We will review OSHA’s concerns and make necessary adjustments to continue to ensure a safe working environment for our employees.”

 

Staff Writer Stephanie Hardiman can be contacted at 791-6301 or at: [email protected]