Time to back the Communication Workers Union campaign to outlaw low level letter boxes


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We can afford to laugh about it. You’re delivering 200 Focii, and you come upon a floor level postbox. Oh dear. Do you kneel? Do you stoop down? Stooping down brings the blood to one’s head and risks back pain. I have about 40 floor level letter boxes on one of my delivery rounds. I usually need an extra shredded wheat in the morning before I do that round.

But there is no reason why new houses and flats should be built with low level letter boxes. British Standard BS EN13724 on mailboxes(which reflects the EU standard) says:

The height of the lowest mailbox aperture should be no lower than 700mm from delivery floor level and the height of the highest mailbox aperture be no higher than 1700mm from delivery floor level. Special circumstances allow aperture heights to be between 400mm and 1800mm from delivery floor level.

Indeed, as far back as 1958, the British Standards Agency has been saying that letter boxes should be at a proper height. The problem is that the standard has never been enshrined in Building Regulations.

Dave Joyce, National Health, Safety and Environment Officer of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) writes on behalf of thousands of postal workers:

The Communications Workers Union has been campaigning to outlaw low level letterboxes for many years. The CWU has been striving for the European Standard (EN13724) to be added to UK Building Regulations – this requires that letterboxes should be positioned at a suitably accessible height, accessible to postal delivery workers, significantly reducing possible injuries such as, dog bites, fingers being trapped or back strain caused when bending excessively to reach ground level boxes.

The CWU is seeking to relaunch its campaign to outlaw low level letter boxes. Mr Joyce has written to CWU members urging them to take action:

…would Branches, Officials, Health and Safety Representatives, Regional Committees and members join together in being vigilant in respect of housing development in your areas and regions in order to react quickly to the fitting of low level letter boxes and consider appropriate proactive action that can be taken by way of representations, discussions, meetings and correspondence with local authorities, builders and developers in your areas and regions requesting compliance with the EU letter box Standard.

Given that we feel a small portion of the pain felt by postal workers on a daily basis as they encounter low level letter boxes, it would be very good for us to show solidarity with those postal workers to press the government to enshrine BS EN13724 in the UK building regulations (in Ireland they have codified the standard into their building regulations). Members should also look out for new developments that have low level letter boxes planned and seek to persuade developers to adjust their letter boxes to a proper height.

As a postcript, Mr Joyce of the CWU emphasises the following:

The Union would stress that it does not expect private householders or businesses to change their doors immediately – our campaigns have always centred on government seeing the merit of our arguments and taking action to minimise the risk of injury to CWU members by passing legislation to cover the manufacture of all new and replacement house doors.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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20 Comments

  • David Becket 7th Jun '18 - 11:35am

    It is common sense that we should back this. It would cut down the time spent off sick by postal workers.
    Whilst this is being considered there should be a maximum distance between the letter box and the edge of the property

  • nvelope2003 7th Jun '18 - 12:12pm

    David Becket: How would disabled householders manage if they had to walk to a letter box at the end of their drive ? Many low level letter boxes are in doors made of glass or similar material which would have to be completely replaced. Otherwise I agree with the campaign.

    Will many people be receiving letter mail in a few years time – apart from advertising ?

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Jun '18 - 12:40pm

    @nvelope2003

    The letterbox in glass door design is in itself flawed – it is often quite obvious that no-one has been around for a while based on the amount of post lying behind the door. Open invitation to crime.

    We’ll still be getting the “We tried to deliver your parcel” stuff for a while yet. And maybe given the epidemic of IT security failures we might revert to doing by snail mail some of the tasks many do currently online.

  • David Becket 7th Jun '18 - 12:53pm

    nvelope2003
    The same system that is used with assisted collection bins. If you are disabled the service is at your house.

  • It’s probably not a good idea to proliferate the number of issues to be policed by building regulation. Have the Royal Mail and CWU contacted building owners directly to encourage them to fit suitably safe mail boxes or letter boxes where the existing ones are considered to be a health and safety hazard? CWU members who are affected by this in their day to day work are well placed to do that.
    As far as new buildings are concerned the Construction Design and Management regulations require designers and builders to consider and design out where possible health and safety hazards and keep records to show what they have done about them.
    When it comes to delivering Focii what I find most frustrating are dwellings with no discernible apertures into which to insert them and banks of mail boxes outside blocks of flats or similar that are so full of junk mail there is no room left to Focus.

  • Phil Banting 7th Jun '18 - 2:16pm

    For me, protection against dogs is a higher priority. Householders should be required to fit internal wire cages or external letterboxes so that fingers can’t get bitten.

  • William Fowler 7th Jun '18 - 3:57pm

    This will have the Labour leadership in a frenzy, a couple of hundred thousand well paid letterbox inspectors, a legion of even better paid postbox engineers and door reconstruction specialists and then a new government department to oversea this unique new British industrial strategy, topped off by half a dozen Labour ministers on a 100k a year, with gold plated pensions and knighthoods guaranteed for services to our world leading letterbox industry.

    Oh, sorry, that nasty Mrs May got there first with the outrageous free market suggestion that if the owners of ill-placed letterboxes don’t replace them with more appropriately situated openings then they would have to collect their mail from the post office with much muttering from Liberals about the country turning into a police state.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jun '18 - 8:57pm

    In Australia, anyone with a front garden is required to have an external letterbox like this.
    It’s far more efficient for the ‘postie’!

    http://letterboxproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/aussie-flag-1-740×493.jpg

  • Nigel Jones 8th Jun '18 - 8:25am

    While we are about it, we need also to try to deal with those that have no letter box and those that have no number or name on their properties. Our local civic society tried to deal with the latter and discovered from Royal Mail and government officials that there is no national requirement for anyone to have any number or name to identify their property.

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Jun '18 - 9:01am

    Paul,
    I used to admire your writing but how could you stoop so low?

  • nvelope2003 8th Jun '18 - 10:16am

    David Becket: I am unaware of any disabled bin collection arrangements here. It is only recently that normal arrangements have been reliable.

    Nonconformistradical: Yes I agree with you about glass doors. Fortunately they seem to have gone out of fashion. We get bullied by most organisations to have everything sent by email but I refuse if it means I then have to print it onto paper.

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Jun '18 - 10:48am
  • As a former postman, it is not just low level letterboxes but also nippy dogs who wait to ambush for you when you push a letter or leaflet through. Each letterbox should have a grid to stop these vicious creatures. It is the most common injury for postpeople and campaigners.

  • Simon Banks 3rd Aug '18 - 11:04pm

    I was once bending to put a leaflet through just such a letterbox when something touched my bum. I spun around to find myself eyeballing a very large but nonviolent dog.

  • There is nothing like a good old moan to get LibDem members agitated. Replace glass doors, outlaw ‘nippy’ dogs, maintain your garden, postbox at your gate, etc..
    All this from members of the party that insisted that IDs were the last word in infringing the rights of individuals.

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