OSHA, the USPS, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the American Postal Workers Union - AFL-CIO (APWU) signed a partnership agreement to work together to promote early identification of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and to control ergonomic risk factors for postal employees.
"Under this partnership OSHA, the postal unions and the Postal Service will all be working together for the good of postal workers," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "It is just this kind of commitment from management and cooperation from unions and employees that we need to help reduce injuries and illnesses related to ergonomics and to assure a safer workplace for employees."
The groups will establish a national Ergonomic Work Group (EWG) consisting of representatives of USPS, the joint labor-management safety committees of the postal unions and OSHA to oversee the implementation of the ergonomic risk reduction process. The process will be tested in 10 sites to start. The goal is to expand the program to 30 sites during calendar year 2003.
Participating sites, through their respective joint labor-management safety committees, will identify work activities for which ergonomic control processes will be developed, and will identify and make available best practices they have identified to other postal facilities with similar risk of ergonomic injuries. They will also share these best practices with OSHA for wider dissemination.
Under the terms of the partnership, OSHA will provide certain incentives to those participating USPS sites. OSHA will provide the maximum allowable penalty reductions for ergonomic and other violations as provided for by OSHA regulation. OSHA will also offer deferrals in programmed inspections at partner sites, and will recognize partnership activities and successes. In addition, the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association (VPPPA) will help identify mentors from VPP sites that have implemented effective ergonomic programs.
A measurement and evaluation system to measure the program's success in meeting its goals will be established. Offsite and onsite verification methods will also be utilized, including on-site evaluations performed by the EWG at least twice a year. At least two independent on-site evaluations by OSHA will also be performed each year.