CHAMPAIGN — The U.S. Postal Service processing facility on North Mattis Avenue faces $144,000 in fines after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the plant for eight violations.
Based on inspections between July and November 2013, OSHA says the U.S. Postal Service did not have proper lockout procedures in place for its mail-sorting equipment and did not have proper railings on stairways, exposing workers to fall hazards.
Those were repeat violations for the U.S. Postal Service, after OSHA cited the company for similar violations in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 at facilities in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Des Moines, Iowa; Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Greensboro, N.C., Lewistown, Mont.; and Elgin, S.C.
According to the OSHA citations, the North Mattis Avenue facility also lacks proper guards to prevent packages from falling off overhead conveyors and did not provide adequate training for employees on equipment lockout procedures. OSHA said the latter of those serious violations exposed workers to severe lacerations or amputation while clearing equipment jams.
OSHA calls a violation serious "when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."
Brian Bothast, acting director of OSHA's Peoria office, said he did not have information about whether anyone has been injured at the North Mattis processing plant.
As far as the fines, he said the dollar amount is based on the severity of the hazard and the probability that someone will get hurt.
"The more severe penalty would also be in relation to the repeat violation," Bothast said.
OSHA has told the postal service that it has until Friday to correct some of the violations. It has deadlines up to Feb. 25 on others.
Representatives for the North Mattis Avenue facility could not be reached Monday afternoon. The fines proposed by OSHA may be challenged, but Bothast said the postal service has not yet done that.
"They can request what they call an informal conference. That's a meeting where the company can discuss the citations," Bothast said. "Or they can contest the citations."
The U.S. Postal Service employs 294 people at the North Mattis Avenue facility, according to OSHA.