USPS: Early planning is essential

USPS: Early planning is essential

Post & Parcel spoke to Dave Partenheimer, Media Relations Manager at United States Postal Service to find out how the organisation has responded to the  COVID-19 crisis.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service already had a pandemic influenza plan in place, which has since been updated. We also had long established localised continuity of operations plans that are employed in the case of emergencies to help ensure that the nation’s postal system continues to function for the American people. Early planning is essential.

“With a longstanding history of quickly adapting our operational plans to changing conditions, the Postal Service maintains steady communications with mailers during natural disasters or other events that require emergency responses and advises residential customers and business mailers with regard to postal facility disruptions that may impact delivery in an affected area via our Service Alerts webpage.

“Specifically for the coronavirus pandemic, Postmaster General Megan Brennan  created a dedicated COVID-19 Command Response leadership team that is focusing on employee and customer safety in conjunction with operational and business continuity during this unprecedented epidemic.

“We continue to follow the strategies and measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health departments.

Reducing health risks and ensuring business continuity

To protect employees and customers and to safeguard our operational and business continuity, the Postal Service is doing the following:

  • Working to overcome the challenges in the supply chain to ensure that our employees have access to hand sanitiser and receive surgical masks and gloves upon request. We have shipped 15 million masks throughout the country to ensure that they are available for our employees and are working tirelessly to keep the supply chain for these items flowing in the face of national challenges.
  • Reinforcing workplace behaviours to ensure that contact amongst our employees and with our customers reflects the best guidance regarding healthy interactions, social distancing, and risk minimisation.  We have implemented measures at retail facilities and mail processing facilities to ensure appropriate social distancing, including through signage, floor tape, and “cough/sneeze” barriers.
  • We have changed delivery procedures to eliminate the requirement that customers sign our Mobile Delivery Devices for delivery.  For increased safety, employees will politely ask the customer to step back a safe distance or close the screen door/door so that they may leave the item in the mail receptacle or appropriate location by the customer door.
  • Updating our cleaning policies to ensure that all cleaning occurs in a manner consistent with CDC guidance relating to this pandemic.
  • Issuing a daily cadence of employee talks, articles, videos, and other communications to ensure employees have the latest information and guidance.
  • Updating our leave policies to allow liberal use of leave and to therefore give our employees the ability to stay home whenever they feel sick, must provide dependent care, or wish to abide by state or local shelter-in-place requirements.  We have entered into agreements with our unions and management associations to provide 80 hours of paid leave to non-career employees for issues related to COVID-19, and have expanded the definition of sick leave for dependent care for covered employees to deal with the closures of primary and secondary schools across the country.
  • Expanding the use of telework for those employees who are able to perform their jobs remotely.
  • Leveraging localised continuity of operations plans that can be employed in the case of emergencies to help ensure that the nation’s postal system continues to function for the American people.

“We are proud of the work our employees play in processing, transporting, and delivering mail and packages for the American public, which is a vital public service that is a part of this nation’s critical infrastructure. The Postal Service delivers much needed medications and Social Security checks, and we are the leading delivery service for online purchases.

“The Postal Service is an essential service for purposes of compliance with state or municipality shelter-in-place orders or other social distancing restrictions. The statute that created the Postal Service begins with the following sentence: “The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorised by the Constitution, created by an Act of Congress, and supported by the people.”  39 U.S.C. §101(a).

“As of the weekend, with a workforce of more than 630,000 employees there have been 293 postal employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.”

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