Safe Mail Handling Practices

Characteristics of suspicious and potentially hazardous letters and packages

Although most business establishments will never receive mail that contains explosives or biologically or chemically hazardous substances, the events in recent years make it clear that no office can completely rule out the possibility of receiving mail meant to injure people and damage facilities. Therefore every business needs to keep an eye out for suspicious mail.

Here are several steps you can take to help protect yourself and your employees from hazardous mail and packages. 

Common Characteristics of Dangerous Mail

  • No return address
  • Return address that is different state than postmark
  • Handwritten address
  • Misspellings
  • Incorrect title or missing name
  • Labeled “Personal”
  • Lopsided envelope
  • Letters taped closed
  • Excessive tape on packages
  • Package or envelope that’s heavy for its size
  • Too much postage
  • Stains, discoloration , odor, or crystallized substance on the outside
  • Leaking powder

How To Handle Suspicious Mail

  • Do not open it
  • Don’t taste, smell, or touch substances leaking from it
  • Don’t shake it
  • Isolate it

What Do To About Suspicious Mail

  • Contact legal authorities
  • If  you suspect a bomb, biological, radiological or chemical hazard, evacuate the building
  • Call police
  • Contact Postal inspectors

If you’ve opened mail and powder or suspicious substance has spilled out

  • Cover the spill and package
  • Leave room
  • Prevent access to room by others
  • Wash hands  with soap and water
  • Make a list of anyone who might have come in contact with the substance
  • Remove contaminated clothing as soon as possible and put in sealed container
  • Shower as soon as possible

©2004 Business Know-How

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