Washington, D.C. -- It's official. The United States Postal Service will now have to adhere to the same Occupational Safety and Health Administration Rules that private businesses do.
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi's, R-Wyo., Postal Employees Safety Enhancement Act became public law number 105-241 last night.
"Successfully passing a freestanding bill into law as a freshman senator is really something to celebrate, but what's more important is that this bill is so significant to the safety of American workers," said Enzi.
Although the Postal Service has been required to technically comply with OSHA safety rules, they were not required to pay penalties issued by OSHA. Enzi's new law requires them to pay the fines just like the private sector. Enzi's law also contains provisions which do not allow the Postal Service to raise postal rates or close rural post offices in response to the OSHA fines. Enzi said the law will actually help the Postal Service save money by cutting down on the money paid out every year to workers who have been injured on the job. During the last five years the Postal Service has paid an annual average of $505 million in workers' compensation benefits or about one-third of the total federal program's cost.
Besides improving working conditions for postal workers, Enzi believes the bill's success will benefit workers in other ways.
"We have shown that we are serious about safety and serious about working with everyone on all sides of the issue. This will carry over in the next session as we continue efforts to get the Safety Advancement For Employees (SAFE) Act passed. OSHA is in critical need of modernization," said Enzi. "This is also a good sign for the federal workers who work in agencies not fully covered by OSHA. I hope to eventually level out the playing field for all
workers whether they work in the private or public sector. It's not fair to the workers and it's not fair to companies if the government is above the law."
Enzi's SAFE Act would help OSHA to mend its adversarial ways and focus on what it should, the safety of the workplace. The bill passed the Senate Labor Committee in October 1997. If time runs out on the SAFE Act before adjournment of the 105th Congress, Enzi will continue in the next Congress to build on the bill's success.
A number of Enzi amendments and resolutions have made it into the books, but this is the first freestanding bill authored by Enzi to become law.
Two other OSHA related measures Enzi helped through the process were signed by the President in July. Both measures are components of Enzi's SAFE Act. One of the measures, the OSHA Compliance Assistance Authorization Act, expands state-administered OSHA plans to all 50 states and directs OSHA personnel to give on-site advice about compliance when possible rather that concentrate only on handing out citations. The President also signed into law legislation nearly identical to section eight of Enzi's SAFE Act. This new law bans OSHA supervisors from requiring their inspectors to issue set numbers of citations and fines.