March 8, 2016
Last week the Postal Service shared some information with the Postal Regulatory Commission about accidents and safety issues. As one might expect, the increased use of all those recently hired postal workers — 117,000 in 2015 — is leading to more injuries and accidents.
Replacing experienced career employees with inexperienced non-career employee comes at a cost both to the Postal Service and the injured employees — as well as anyone else injured in these accidents.
As part of its annual compliance determination review, the PRC is required to examine what the Postal Service has done to ensure a safe work place. The Commission has therefore been asking for various kinds of information about illnesses, injuries, and accidents.
In its 2015 Annual Report, the Postal Service indicated that it did not meet the FY 2015 target for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration illness and injury rates. The rate for 2015 was 6.55 per hundred employees — well short of the target of 5.10. In previous years, the rate has ranged from 5.44 in 2012 to 6.68 in 2014.
The Annual Report explained that the failure to meet the target “reflects major changes to the business and a significant increase in new employees who are more at risk for injury.”
The Commission asked for more details, and last week the Postal Service provided an explanation of what these major changes were (see USPS response to CHIR No 17). They include expanding into Sunday delivery, adding new delivery types (like groceries for Amazon Fresh), and hiring 40,000 new City Carrier Assistants to do these deliveries.
As a result of these changes, Sunday accidents have increased 117 percent over the past two fiscal years, from 1,543 in 2013 to 2,153 in 2014 to 3,355 in 2015. In other words, since 2013, when the Postal Service began Sunday delivery for Amazon, Sunday accidents have more than doubled.
Another change has involved how carrier routes are designed. With normal delivery, letter carriers are assigned to a specific route, and over the years they become familiar with it and learn its hazards.
But for package delivery, grocery delivery, and Sunday delivery, the Postal Service uses what it calls “dynamic delivery.” This means that delivery routes vary day to day, based on what packages are being delivered and where. Less experienced drivers end up on unfamiliar, ever-changing routes, and the accident rate goes up.