CWU Calls for a Ban on Low-Level Letterboxes and for the UK to adopt the EU Standard: CWU Low-Level Letterbox Campaign Update:
As you know, 2018 Main and Postal Conference passed motions calling for the re-launch of the CWU Low-Level Letterbox Campaign and this has been done in a high profile way with the Campaign gaining widespread National, Regional and Local TV, Radio, Press and Social Media coverage.
The CWU position is that Low-Level Letterboxes should be banned to prevent postal workers straining their backs, injuring their hands, trapping fingers, risking musculoskeletal injuries and repetitive strains or being bitten by dogs at the base of the door – where the dog is!
In support of the Union’s campaign Vicky Ford MP proposed new legislation in a Private Members Bill last month with 12 MPs from various parties signing the Bill, and through CWU high profile lobbying in the House of Commons, hundreds of MPs from all political parties indicated support for the Bill and the CWU Campaign. This is a “key issue for postal workers.”
The Campaign is calling for it to be statutory that all new letterboxes being installed are to be at a height of between 70cm (2ft 3ins) and 170cm (5ft 6ins).
The Communication Workers Union is campaigning for new buildings to meet the EU letterbox height standard. We have made it clear that the CWU, which represents postmen and women, does not expect private households or businesses to change exiting doors, but for the measurements to become a new building regulation in the UK, and to cover new house builds, replacement doors and refurbishments as well.
The union first started asking the government to raise the level of letterboxes in 1958 and, while it was agreed by the British Standards Agency, it was never enshrined into building standards law neither was it transposed into UK law when the EU Standard was issued in 2000, mirroring the previous British Standard.
A similar campaign was run by our sister union in Ireland and that saw low-level letterboxes banned in 2001. Other EU states have similar statutory rules e.g. Belgium, Portugal and the Rep of Ireland and the CWU believes “the time has come to replicate this in the UK.”
There were 16,800 back-related spells of absence in Royal Mail last year involving injured postmen and women.
There are over 95,000 postmen and women, CWU grades, working out on the streets for Royal Mail daily. They deliver to 30 million address, they serve each of our communities six days a week, every week of the year, and with 300,000 new homes being built annually the problem is growing.
Our Campaign and the Private Members Bill supporting it simply wants to stop developers from building swathes of homes each with a letterbox placed near to the ground and we are campaigning and confident of securing cross-party unity in the Houses of Parliament to secure our policy objective.
The Union’s Health, Safety & Environment Department is now lobbying Housing Minister Kit Malthouse to encompass the Letterbox Standard in the government’s Building Regulations Review later this year.
The CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department now has the full support of Royal Mail for our Campaign and we are planning a number of joint initiatives, through joint co-operation and support for the CWU ‘Low Level Letterbox Campaign’. A joint letter to all UK House Builders, registered at Companies House, asking that they comply with the EU Letterbox Standard and give an undertaking, is planned along with a House of Commons/House of Lords event, inviting all MPs and Lords to a ‘drop-in’ session, to talk about the Low Level Letterbox Campaign and sign up to support us.
The benefits of the Letterbox Minimum Height we are campaigning for include:
- Reducing injuries to postmen and women– Royal Mail workers had over 16,800 back related absence spells in 2017/18 (a ‘spell’ could be any period of time e.g. a day or even a year). Whilst not all of these will be as a result of delivering mail, the act of bending or stooping to deliver mail to low letterboxes is a significant factor.
- Reducing the risk of trapped fingers which are more easily trapped in low level letterboxes.
- Reducing the impact of dog attacks – low level letterboxes are also easier for dogs (or cats) to hide behind and bite or swipe at postmen and women delivering the mail. 2,275 recorded dog attacks took place on postmen and women across the UK in 2017/18 – 44 attacks per week.
- Higher ‘first time delivery’ rates, meaning fewer damaged items, redeliveries or trips to pick up undelivered mail for customers.
- EN13724 also sets out minimum sizes for letterbox apertures, so that standard size letters and smaller parcels can be delivered through the front door. Many letterboxes simply cannot take a standard letter, let alone a large letter or small parcel/packet.
- Ensuring developers use minimum standards will lead to fewer mail items being damaged – or not delivered first time – which brings benefits to customers.
We were delighted that Keepmoat Homes one of the UK’s top 20 builders recently changed their door choice policy when challenged by the CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department on their use of low level letterboxes on a large 250 homes development in Stoke. We are calling on all developers to follow this lead and commit to installing only doors with the letterbox between 700mm and 1700mm in compliance with the EU Standard and NHBC Guidance (copies attached).
We have the support of MPs and Local Authorities across the nation on this matter and seek your support also.
We have taken our case to the House of Commons and a Private Members Bill was recently passed. We hope that later this year the Housing Minister will enshrine the EU Standard EN13724 into revised UK Building Regulations. In the meantime, we hope to gain support for our campaign in pressing builders to comply with the EU Standard which wouldn’t have been created if it wasn’t necessary.
- CWU Low Level Letterbox Campaign leaflet
- CWU Low Level Letterbox Campaign Logo
- EU Letterbox Height Standard EN13724
- National House Builders Council Technical Guidance Newsletter (P6 Letterbox Heights)
Branches wishing to obtain copies of the leaflets and logo should contact the CWU/HQ Print
Room (Debbie Ackerman). Please share the leaflets with Local Councilors and Builders.
Thank you all very much for your support. Further reports will be made in due course.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer