Sound body

When Omar Mohammed worked as a letter carrier, he avoided carrying his satchel on the same shoulder.

“I would switch it from left to right, to balance out my shoulders,” he said.

By making these and other small adjustments, Mohammed — who now works as a business development specialist for Connecticut Valley District — avoided suffering any musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries, which can affect muscles, tendons, ligaments and the body’s bone structure.

Last year, Postal Service employees experienced nearly 9,000 work-related MSD injuries, which are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That’s why using ergonomics — modifying work to fit the worker — is so important, according to Larry Duke, ergonomic specialist at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC.

“Ergonomics is a major aspect of safety because it helps prevent injuries from happening,” said Duke, noting February is Ergonomics Awareness Month.

For instance, if a plant job often requires reaching for items or standing for long periods, employees should have access to tools, such as reach poles and anti-fatigue floor mats, to reduce stresses that result in MSDs.

Employees can also bring their work closer to them or move to change the position of their legs to reduce stiffness. Additionally, employees can talk with a supervisor to discuss ways to eliminate forceful exertions that may result in pain or injury.

“The key is to identify the risk factor and work to either eliminate it or minimize it,” said Jerry Giammattei, an Atlantic Area ergonomic specialist.

Similarly, employees who are working remotely from home during the coronavirus pandemic aren’t immune from MSDs and should plan their workspaces with ergonomics in mind.

Maintaining a good working posture, properly adjusting the home workspace and breaking up or alternating work tasks are all ways to reduce the risk of MSDs related to computer work.

“Design the work to fit the capabilities and limitations of the worker,” Duke said. “For example, instead of just setting up a production line or designing a piece of equipment and only thinking about how it works, think about who’s going to work on the line or use the equipment.”

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Stock up

The Postal Service has surplus quantities of hand sanitizer — widely used to prevent transmission of the coronavirus — available to ship to facilities for employees’ use.

Supply Management has temporarily removed internal catalog quantity limitations and streamlined the ordering of this product.

Facilities can order cases of 8-ounce Purell Gel Instant Pump or 16-ounce Purell Flip Cap hand sanitizer from the Topeka, KS, Material Distribution Center (MDC) catalog on eBuy Plus. Each case contains 12 units.

MDC supplies are available at no cost to the field. Facilities can still use purchase cards to order hand sanitizer from other eBuy Plus catalog sources, but this can result in added expenses for the Postal Service.

Facilities can also order disposable pleated face masks from the MDC. The minimum order is one box, which contains 50 individual masks; the maximum order is 40 boxes, or 2,000 masks.

As part of its continuing effort to keep employees safe during the coronavirus pandemic, the Postal Service advises facilities to have a 30-to-45-day supply of cleaning and disinfectant products, hand soaps and sanitizer, paper towels, disposable face masks, gloves and other materials on hand at all times.

The COVID-19 Employee Resources Blue page has the latest update on available supplies.

Winter heat

“News Quiz” is a weekly feature that lets you test your knowledge of recent Link stories. The correct answers appear at the end.

1. According to the Postal Service’s new heat safety materials, which is considered the most severe heat-related illness?

a) Heat exhaustion
b) Heat stroke
c) Heat cramps
d) Heat rash

2. Fill in the blank: In a new pilot program, USPS and the U.S. (blank) are working together to assist federal employees with their government credentials.

a) General Services Administration
b) Government Accountability Office
c) Office of Special Counsel
d) Postal Inspection Service

3. What is the name of the current #PostalProud initiative?

a) Behind the Eagle
b) Beyond the Blue
c) Inside Blue
d) Peek into Peak

4. True or false: Postal Service employees are permitted to maintain secret systems of records that contain information about individuals as long as the data is encrypted.

a) True
b) False

5. Where did Chien-Shiung Wu receive her doctorate in nuclear physics?

a) Columbia University
b) Princeton University
c) Shanghai University
d) University of California, Berkeley

Answers: 1) b. 2) a. 3) c. 4) b. USPS employees should never maintain a secret system of records — such as a file, database or program — that contains information about individuals. 5) d.

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