WEST CHAZY Employees of the West Chazy Post Office were recently recognized for steps they have taken to create a safer work environment as part of a national initiative. During a ceremony held at the post office Nov. 21, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration honored postal employees for achieving certification in OSHAs Voluntary Protection Program. The particular program for which the post office was certified, the Star Program, recognizes workplaces which have achieved injury and illness rates at or below the national average of their respective industries. The process took more than a year of training and coordination with various agencies from the state and district levels of OSHA and the U.S. Postal Service, in addition to working with already VPP certified companies such as Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Chazy. OSHA Region II VPP manager Mike Levy, who was in attendance for the event, stated the West Chazy Post Office exemplifies the five points of the Star Program commitment of management and leadership, employee involvement, work site analysis, hazard prevention and control, and proper employee training. In evaluating the local post office for each of the five elements, Mr. Levy said, At no place, was it brighter than here in West Chazy. We saw that management and the employees worked together to better redesign the routes to minimize the problems rural carriers find like backing up, left turns and things like that, said Mr. Levy. VPP is the pinnacle of safety and health, and for management, employees and OSHA working together, this really demonstrates the value of VPP. During a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, postal employee Julie Layne gave an overview of the measures taken to increase safety and functionality for employees while on the job. Among the modifications made was accommodating shorter employees by building a platform in the sorting room to minimize the amount of reaching necessary when processing mail. For those working in one place for an extended period of time, footrests were also created. Paper cutters were also purchased in order to reduce the amount of repetitive motions from using scissors to open materials, which could otherwise lead to conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Other preventive steps taken included creating hooks to reach packages at the back of a truck to also reduce reaching, utilizing a mail hawk or grabber to reach mail in mailboxes on rural carrier routes, and using appropriate leveled carts to transport mail from the facility to carrier vehicles. One highly acclaimed improvement made for rural carriers came in the simple form of a chip clip, a plastic spring-loaded clip primarily used in keeping potato chip bags closed. The clip is now used by rural carriers by placing it at the base of the drivers seatbelt. The clip prevents the belt from retracting too far when braking, as rural carriers must do repeatedly when delivering mail. Though not required by law to wear a seatbelt, carriers are able to have the additional safety of a seatbelt without the nuisance of being overly constrained. Rural carriers now also wear bright yellow shirts and jackets with reflective tape to help them become more visible in times it is necessary for them to exit their vehicles, further adding to their safety, said Mrs. Layne. Efforts made by the post offices Safety and Health Committee dont end there. In order to increase safety and promote health throughout the community, a blood pressure machine has also been installed in the post office lobby. The machine sees regular use, said Mrs. Layne, with local physicians referring those seeking routine blood pressure screening to the post office. Courses in defensive driving and dog bite awareness have also been offered by the post office, which has also been the site of a recent blood drive, increasing the post offices role in promoting health and safety. The ability to perform improvements and achieve VPP certification, said West Chazy Postmaster Beverly Canning, was thanks to the cooperation of all involved, especially the post offices employees. There were days that they would look at me and say, You want us to do what? said Ms. Canning. They never said no and they always tried. I couldnt be prouder of all the employees of West Chazy for this accomplishment, said post office operations manager Dan Cronin. Each and every employee here shares equally in this accomplishment. People may have had different roles in getting to the end result here, but without every persons participating and dedication to this, it never would have happened. The West Chazy Post Office is the first post office to receive VPP certification in the northeast area, which encompasses zip codes beginning with 129. In addition, the local post office is the smallest post office out of 138 nationwide to become enrolled in the VPP program, which was established in 1982 to recognize and partner with businesses and work sites that show excellence in occupational safety and health beyond minimum OSHA standards. During the ceremony plaques of recognition for the achievement were presented by Mr. Cronin and Mr. Levy to Ms. Canning, as well as a flag to be flown in front of the West Chazy Post Office recognizing the branch for being VPP certified.