Postal Workers Unprepared for COVID-Related Risks April 7, 2020
Despite being one of the largest employers in the United States, people who work for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) say they are not being adequately protected or receiving the necessary supplies in order to protect themselves from the COVID-19 health hazards they are encountering on the job. With the U.S. now leading the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, it is critical that the postal service immediately begins taking steps to guard all workers against these new and rapidly developing job-related dangers.
On The Job Hazards For Postal Workers
Approximately 500,000 men and women work for the USPS. Since COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory virus, first began sweeping across the country, workers have feared for their health and safety – as well as the health and safety of their loved ones, who they return home to every night. Although agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say they have found no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is spreading through the mail, there is data showing that the virus remains viable on certain materials, such as cardboard, for up to 24 hours. Another safety concern for postal workers is handling envelopes that may be contaminated with saliva. To avoid these potential risks, public health officials are urging people not to lick envelopes and to use other methods for sealing envelopes in order to avoid contamination.
Another major fear that postal workers report having is the worry that they will accidentally spread the virus to others, like their customers, coworkers, and loved ones – as well as to people who are considered high risk for complications, such as individuals who are immunocompromised or have certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Although the USPS claims they have made gloves and masks available to workers who request them, employees say that management has given them nothing. Additionally, corporate has not supplied letter carriers with hand sanitizer and many say they struggle to find public places to wash their hands along their routes. And it is not just letter carriers who are facing an array of health and safety obstacles: employees who work in postal offices say the spaces are inadequate for practicing the 6-foot rule of social distancing and that they come into close contact with others every day.
As with many people who are continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, postal workers fear retribution and retaliation, like layoffs, for calling out of work sick. Many say they worry that the fear of losing a job might cause workers who are sick or exhibiting symptoms to still go to work – and that this could contribute to the virus spreading more quickly. Representatives from the USPS say the number of days an employee misses work is not related to disciplinary measures and that any employee who is ill should stay at home, but workers say they are still concerned about job security and safety.
What To Do If You Are Sick
If you work for the USPS and are experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19, like shortness of breath, fever, and a cough it is critical to stay at home. Only individuals who are experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention. If you have symptoms but are able to recover at home, the CDC recommends that people:
- Stay in touch with your doctor. If you think you need to see your doctor in person, call before getting medical care (unless you are experiencing emergency symptoms),
- Avoid taking public transportation, using ride-shares, taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts,
- Do not visit public places and stay at home unless it is in order to seek medical attention, and:
- If possible, stay in a designated “sick room” in your home. If you can, use a separate bathroom from your family members/roommates as well.
To stay up-to-date on COVID-related news across the country, you can visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. If you have a legal question regarding unemployment or workers’ compensation claims, someone at our firm can help. Please contact a representative online.
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