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Mercer Island Post Office receives safety award

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter United States Postal carriers sort mail for their routes at the post office on Mercer Island, Wednesday. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter United States Postal carriers sort mail for their routes at the post office on Mercer Island, Wednesday.
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Mercer Island’s postal workers know how to be safe. That’s the reason the new white “Star” flag now flies below the Stars and Stripes outside the North end Post Office.

The federal department of labor recognized the Island’s postal workers last week for their efforts in making their mailroom safer. The station was presented with a star trophy by local representatives of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, and a plaque signed by OSHA’s assistant secretary, Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.

Mercer Island’s post office has 48 employees, including 35 carriers, 10 clerks and three managers. To earn the award, OSHA conducted on-site inspections of the Island post office’s safety and health programs, interviewed the employees about the safety in their workplace and completed a full tour of the station.

OSHA’s regional administrator in Seattle, Richard Terrill, said the Island’s “facility has demonstrated that a safety and health program supported by management and embraced by the employees can dramatically reduce injuries and illnesses.”

Okey Akers, the Volunteer Protection Program, or VPP, coordinator for the Island’s station, said the award reflects the respect between the employees and the management.

“It shows there’s more respect from the management,” Akers said. “The employees are putting out this effort and in return the management does things like get the new parking lot, a new fence and other security. These things usually have to be fought for by employees, but now they are offered in a cooperative spirit. And that’s what we dig.”

One of the safety measures the Island employees were commended for by the department of labor is a safety net in their supply room. Regulations require things stored over five feet high to be secured, so the Island postal employees brought in a flexible net to prevent things from falling.

“They [OSHA] went crazy over it,” Akers said.

The post office put up the net about a year ago. It stretches over about 50 feet of top shelf in the supply room. It secures several boxes from falling in case of an earthquake or similar accident.

As a member of OSHA’s VPP, the mailroom had to meet or exceed all OSHA regulatory standards and submit to an OSHA review of their programs. Participants usually achieve injury and illness rates at least 50 percent below their respective industries’ averages.

Mercer Island’s post office had been involved in the review process for the award for about a year and a half, according to its postmaster, Dale Goforth.

“It’s very intense to get through this process,” Goforth said. “This is a cooperative effort of both management and employees.”

According to a press release issued by the department of labor and industries, the Island Post Office has an injury rate 65 percent lower than at comparable U.S. Postal service sites. Nationwide, there are only 1,800 workplaces that have earned such status.

Jim White, the safety and health director for the United Postal Workers Union (UPWU), congratulated the mailroom staff for their efforts when he spoke at the event. He also shared his faith in the Volunteer Protection Program.

“I have seen lots of safety programs come and go, but this one is consistent. There’s the possibility of losing the star status and to keep it is the goal. This, you have to consistently work at.

“The star status is not simple. It’s something they had to work hard at,” White said of the Island’s postal employees.

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