The number of reported personal injury industrial accidents at the Postal Service has been decreasing in recent years but it is “difficult to determine” whether safety has improved or whether the decrease is due to accidents going unreported, an audit has concluded.
The inspector general’s office at USPS cited issues including a lack of coordination among the four separate USPS data systems that keep track of accident, injury, and claim information related to vehicle and industrial incidents; employee injury compensation claims; vehicle repairs; and total accidents by facility for purposes of evaluating a facility’s safety record.
The former database shows some 455,000 accidents 2016-2020, about two-thirds of which were industrial accidents and the rest vehicle accidents.
“Supervisors did not always report or timely report motor vehicle and industrial accidents . . . Further, management did not always perform or have an efficient process in place to reconcile and track accident-related activity to identify unreported personal injuries,” the IG said.
The IG said that over that time, nearly three-fourths of the 147,000 accident repair work orders in the vehicle repairs database did not have a corresponding report in the vehicle accident database. In addition, 23,300 of incidents in the accident database were not reported within 24 hours as required, including 75 that were reported between one and three years late.
Similarly, the database for claim information related to vehicle and industrial incidents and the database for injury compensation claims “did not interface with one another and we were unable to identify a unique identifier shared by both systems that would assist in reconciling the data,” the IG said.
Reported personal injury industrial accidents decreased each fiscal year over that period from 57,892 to 46,589 but the IG said “it was unclear whether it was due to implemented safety procedures or unreported accidents, since unreported industrial accidents are not easily identified.”
The IG also noted that while reported vehicle accidents declined over 2018-2020, accident-related vehicle repairs increased, which “indicates that not all motor vehicle accidents were reported.” It added that unreported damage to vehicles “could lead to unrepaired vehicles, drivers operating vehicles with undetected safety hazards, and a poor reflection on the Postal Service’s brand and image to the public.”
“These conditions occurred due to a variety of reasons, such as unclear or contradictory guidance; and limitations within systems used to track accident, injury, claim, maintenance, and repair information,” the IG said. It recommended that management review reporting requirements, reemphasize them, monitor compliance, and better coordinate the databases.