Tulsa postal authorities make changes to improve worker safety issues

Tuesday, October 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Even though no anthrax has been found in any Tulsa mail, postal employees here are worried nonetheless. News on Six crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains what changes are being made to protect them.

We've had two worrisome incidents in Tulsa recently. First, was a package with no return address with staples all around the edges, it turned out to be nothing. And, second, white powder found in a mail truck, turned out to be chalk dust. Now, they may even stop using chalk, just one of many changes to come.

Some Tulsa postal workers touch thousands of pieces of mail in a day's work, they're worried about getting sick, or infecting their families, but they also say they won't let fear stop them from doing their jobs. Ken Lee, Local APWU President: "The postal employees are doing an outstanding job in light of what's going on." Here are some changes Tulsa employees will soon see, nametags will have bigger photos to be seen from further away and station addresses will be removed.

Employees are no longer to shake suspicious packages and air compressors will no longer be used to clean equipment, for fear of spreading dangerous substances. And, Tulsa firefighters will visit each post office to answer anthrax questions. Also, masks and gloves are available to any employee who wants to wear them. They say it's a difficult balance between taking enough precautions and making people afraid. "Just about every employee is concerned and rightly so, but the way we deal with it is we don't let the fear take over." Lee says postal employees will continue delivering the mail, because it's not just a job to them, it's a career and one they take pride in, one they want all Americans to continue to believe in.

The post office is looking at sanitizing the mail like we now sanitize our food. One option is radiation beams that kill bacteria and don't leave any residue or make the items radioactive. Another option is using a beam of electrons to kill bacteria; the beam can pass through envelopes and packages quickly enough to be used on a moving assembly line. They're using it now to sterilize medical equipment and estimate it would cost about a penny per letter.

The goal is, if it's safe for postal workers to deliver, it'll be safe for all of us to accept.