Union Action Averts Safety Hazard
12/10/2007 - An objection by the APWU to a change in postal policy regarding the use of biohazard detection equipment has averted a potentially serious safety hazard.
Management instructions issued Oct. 4, 2007, noted that the installation of biohazard detection equipment on Advanced Facer Cancellation machines had been completed, but went on to say that stamp mail could be cancelled on alternate equipment during peak cancellation periods or when volume exceeded capacity on AFCS machines. The Biohazard Detection System (BDS) was developed in the aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks.
When word of the new policy made its way to the APWU national office last week, the union took immediate action. In a strongly-worded letter to Postmaster General John E. Potter, APWU President William Burrus objected to the change.
“These instructions will increase biohazard exposure to employees, customers, facilities, and mail,” he wrote. “The instructions represent a major change in the USPS policy, which previously assured that all stamped mail would be processed on the AFCS and screened for possible exposure.”
Burrus requested that Potter rescind the policy and “continue to apply unqualified protections” to the mail system.
The following day new instructions were issued, indicating that “it is imperative to ensure that at AFCS sites, all collection letter mail meeting the processing specifications for the AFCS, be processed on the AFCS.”
Burrus said he was pleased that the Postal Service responded quickly to the union’s objection. “The safety of APWU members — and the American public — must always be a top priority,” he said.