The Postal Service is considering rule changes to better protect mail from leaks and spills stemming from rising package volumes.
There were 549 reported incidents involving spills or leaks in the mail from broken containers inside packages during the previous fiscal year, up 28 percent from one year earlier.
Many spills involve leaks of common household products, such as motor oil; bleach and similar cleaning products; flavorings; and body lotions.
“The number of incidents we are seeing just keeps going up,” said Product Classification Specialist Michelle Lassiter. “Whether it’s cooking oils or motor oils, wrapping the container in newspaper is just not cutting it.”
Changes to the current rules would align the language in the Domestic Mail Manual and Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted and Perishable Mail, to clarify what is considered a breakable container, as well as add packaging requirements for mailers sending liquids.
The Office of the Federal Registrar recently published the proposed changes, and the mailing community has been invited to provide comments. The new rules will be implemented based upon the feedback received.
Reducing spills is important because they can cause processing delays, result in pricey cleanup efforts, damage surrounding mailpieces and erode customer confidence in USPS. One broken quart-size container of motor oil can affect 60-70 pieces of mail.
“I think the overall goal is to try to ensure there aren’t as many incidents happening as frequently within our facilities,” Lassiter said. “These changes will help us ensure that liquids in the mail aren’t damaging someone’s Social Security check or birthday card.”