Niles Post Office commits to safety

Published 1:48 am Tuesday, March 21, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The employees of the Niles branch of the United States Post Office have made a commitment to safety.
The workers are improving the facility and the way in which day-to-day operations are run with the Volunteer Protection Program. VPP helps employees create a system that is safe and healthy for everyone at the workplace and which goes beyond the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
VPP was created by OSHA in 1982 as a way to partner with businesses that create their own systems to manage worker safety and health. Representatives from the programs visit a site to evaluate and correct any hazards in the workplace. From the visits, managers can then recognize what training may be needed to improve the safety of the work environment, said Robert Sander, VPP Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region.
Success in the program requires a large involvement from employees as well. A safety and health committee consisting of union leaders and management must be formed at every potential VPP site, Sander added.
There are eight members on the committee at the Niles Post Office, Sander said.
Niles Postmaster Tom Principe said the process began with two upgrades. First, the building needed some minor cosmetic repairs including some electrical work. Principe said the second step was making sure operations that will be checked by OSHA are thorough and up-to-date.
Sander said that involves such steps as rearranging the facility so emergency routes and exits are clear and visible.
It is “not only the physical correctness of the building” being checked by OSHA though, Sander said. How the employees themselves perform their everyday tasks on the job is also reviewed. Everyone working at the facility, from postal carriers to mail sorters, is involved with the process, Principe said.
It often comes down to small details such as learning how to move large bins full of mail around the office in a way that is least likely to produce injury, Sander said.
To qualify for VPP, Sander said a post office must first have a low accident history, a solid relationship between management and unions and a commitment to improving safety on the job from each of the three unions, which represent the clerks, city carriers and rural carriers.
Signs in the Niles Post Office indicate the facility has gone over 90 days without an injury to an employee.
Plus, a letter stating the commitment to completing the safety program has been signed by all three unions and the management of the office, Principe said.
The Niles Post Office has only begun the process, but hopes to file an application with OSHA by June and invite representatives from the administration to evaluate the site in August, Sander said.
Once OSHA arrives, Sander said the process of evaluating the post office and interviewing employees takes a little over a day.
As of now, Sander said the local office is already on the right track.