A government watchdog recently revealed in a report made public on Wednesday that postal workers and customers in certain U.S. postal facilities are continuously being exposed to a number of toxic agents, including asbestos, mold, and more. which may end up racking up close to $20 million in fines. Although the names of the postal facilities investigated weren’t released, the problem is a nationwide issue.
The Daily Caller reports that 90% of the 20 post offices investigated had numerous potential Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) infractions, which threaten not only the postal workers, but also customers who visit the facilities. According to the report, “Office of Inspector General/United States Post Office,” management at each of the post offices found in violation failed to maintain and upkeep, and lack of regular cleaning.
“Eighteen facilities (90 percent) had potential OSHA building safety and security violations that could result in fines. They included locked or blocked emergency exits, asbestos and mold, improper storage of flammable materials, insect infestation, trip hazards, and exposed electrical outlets and switches.”
Part of the problem, according to the investigation, is that the Postal Service performs periodic inspections on building maintenance and safety, but it fails to regularly inspect buildings for cleanliness and basic repairs that should be done regularly. In turn, these issues seem to have gotten out of control, at least in the post offices included in the investigation.
In addition to finding asbestos, many of the buildings also had other safety issues, including:
- Broken exterior lights
- Trash cans and trash can liners on top of retail counters (due to water pooling in the lobby area)
- Missing ceiling tiles (which can increase the risk of asbestos exposure)
- Missing floor tiles
- Water-stained walls
- Birds and squirrels in the work areas, due to damaged and un-repaired roofs
- Leaking windows
- Mold on ceilings and walls
- Dead insects in light fixtures
- Exposed electrical outlets
- Lawn equipment not in its proper place
Although some of the issues are cosmetic in nature, it’s the risk of asbestos exposure that makes this report so important. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring but deadly mineral. Once asbestos fibers are released, they can quickly permeate through the air, causing people to unknowingly inhale and ingest them. It’s literally impossible to know when, if, and how many fibers were ingested/inhaled, as the fibers a tiny, colorless, odorless, and undetectable.
Unfortunately, instead of pledging to take care of the problems, the Postal Service is allegedly fighting the fees associated with dealing with the issues and “questioned the qualifications of personnel who performed the audits.” For instance, each violation could cost anywhere between $3,000 to $7,000 each, and for the more serious problems, such as asbestos exposure, the fines could reach upwards to $70,000. These fees are in addition to anyone who seeks out an asbestos-related lawsuit.
There are around 300,000 post offices nationwide, and around 25,000 have been around for 100 years. It’s only been a little over 30 years since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforced strict regulations on asbestos use, meaning that a multitude of post offices were constructed during a time when asbestos was widely used in construction materials.
There is a good chance that the majority of older post office facilities are littered with asbestos-containing materials, and if the walls, ceilings, floors, and other areas aren’t properly maintained, asbestos can disrupt and put people at risk for developing life-threatening illnesses such as asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Additional Help and Resources
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims of asbestos-related diseases. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma lawyer in your area. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.