OSHA Recommendations for Handling Mail
UPDATE: December 10, 2001
Anthrax organisms can infect the skin, the gastrointestinal system,
or the lungs. To cause infection, the anthrax spores must
come into contact with broken or abraded skin, swallowed, or inhaled
as a fine dust. However, anthrax infection can be prevented
even after exposure to anthrax spores by early treatment with the
appropriate antibiotics, see the Centers for Disease Control Health
Advisory at http://www.bt.cdc.gov.
Anthrax spores can be dispersed in the air as a dust or can be carried
on items such as mail or clothing. However, unlike the common
cold or flu, anthrax infection itself is NOT spread from one person
to another. These guidelines emphasize preventing the spread
of anthrax spores through careful handling and isolation of suspicious
packages and their contents.
PROCEDURES FOR SAFE MAIL HANDLING
- Be on the lookout for suspicious envelopes or packages, see
the FBI Instructional Poster at http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel01/mail3.pdf
- Do NOT open suspicious mail.
- Open Mail with a letter opener or another method that minimizes
skin contact with the mail and is least likely to disturb contents.
- Open mail with a minimum amount of movement.
- Do not blow into envelopes.
- Keep hands away from nose and mouth while opening mail.
- Turn off fans, portable heaters, and other equipment that may
create air currents while opening mail.
- Wash hands after handling mail.
During mail handling, if an employee chooses to wear gloves for
protection, vinyl or nitrile gloves are recommended.
If you receive a suspicious package/letter or the mail appears
to contain a suspicious powder:
- Put the letter or package down on a stable surface and do not
open or handle it further. (Do not shake or disturb its
- If possible, isolate the package. (Place in a plastic
bag and seal.)
- Alert others nearby. (Keep others away.)
- Do not try to clean up the substance.
- Leave the area and close the door gently.
- Wash hands and exposed skin with soap and water.
- Contact Public Safety at X7000. Public Safety will
respond and will contact local, state, or federal authorities,
as appropriate. (911)
- Limit movements within the building to prevent spread of substance.
Characteristics of Suspicious Packages and Letters
- Discoloration, oily stains, or an unusual odor.
- Crystals, powder, or powder-like residue on the surface.
- Suspicious or threatening language on the outside of package
- Postmark that does not match return address or no return address.
- Restrictive endorsements such as "Personal" or "Confidential."
- Distorted handwriting, block-printed or poorly typed addresses.
- Excessive tape or string.
- Rigid, uneven, irregular, or lopsided package.
- Package with soft spots, bulges, or excessive weight.
- Handwritten, block-printed or poorly typed addresses.
- Excessive postage.
- Title but not name or incorrect title.
- Misspelled addressee's name, title, or location.
- Misspelled common words.
- Addressee unknown or no longer with organization.
- Protruding wires or aluminum foil.
- Ticking sound.
- Unexpected mail from a foreign country.