Your Rights to a Safe Workplace

Charlie Cash

July 11, 2022

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(This article first appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

Safety—how often do you think about your safety at work? Do you ever think about the impact it would have on your family if you were injured, sickened, or even killed on the job? The Postal Service is a dangerous place to work. Safety is weighing heavily on my mind today. We lost one of our union family in a workplace accident today. No employee’s family should ever get that call that a loved one was lost just trying to provide for their family.

In the United States, 4,764 working people were killed on the job and an estimated 120,000 died from occupational diseases in 2020. Worldwide, 340 workers are killed on the job every single day! No one should die by just trying to provide a living for themselves and their families!

In fiscal year 2021, there were 44,936 on the job injury/ occupational disease claims that were approved by the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP). It is likely there were thousands more unreported injuries. The Postal Service can also be deadly. In 2019 (the last year data was publicly available), there were 15 postal employees killed on the job.

Our union contract guarantees you certain rights in regards to safety. Article 14 of our National Agreement states, “It is the responsibility of management to provide safe working conditions in all present and future installations and to develop a safe working force.” That means management must make sure your buildings are safe, machines are properly guarded, emergency exits are clear, electrical panels are not blocked, and that you are all trained in safety aspects to help you come to work each day and go home uninjured.

Making sure that Management adheres to Article 14 and their obligations to provide you a safe workplace requires that everyone participates in the enforcement of Article 14. This starts with all of us being aware of our surroundings and workplace conditions. Is the floor free of tripping hazards? If you run a machine, is it properly guarded? Are the fire extinguishers easily accessible?

Are all the emergency exits free of obstructions, allowing easy egress in an emergency? When you are required to work in hot conditions, is management providing necessary heat breaks and providing drinking water? Have you been taught proper lifting and ergonomic principles?

These are all things to consider when you are thinking of management’s obligation to safety.

Enforcement has to begin at the workroom level. Each employee has the right under our National Agreement and federal law to report unsafe and hazardous conditions— and you should. Reporting is the first step in making your workplace safe. The Postal Service has developed PS Form 1767 Report of Hazard, Unsafe Condition or Practice for you to complete when you
need to report a safety issue. Management is required to make this form readily available. In the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) Section 824.62, it states, “Supervisors must maintain a supply of PS Forms 1767 in the workplace in a manner that provides employees with both easy and (if desired) anonymous access.” Providing you the form is not an option—it is
mandated. Management is then required to respond to your report and correct the issue. If that doesn’t happen a grievance can be filed directly at Step-2 of our grievance process.

Other reporting options are available. You could also file a report directly with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You are protected under the law and by our contract when you report a safety hazard. The law allows you to do so without fear of discipline or fear of reprisal.

The APWU provides safety resources on our safety webpage at: To learn more about safety, download PS-Form 1767, and download other safety fliers. We want every postal employee to know their rights and Stand Up for Safe Jobs!

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