A path for the mail carrier

With the roller coaster winter weather officially under way, the U.S. Postal Service asks customers to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, stairs and mailboxes to help letter carriers deliver mail during inclement weather.

Mail is an important part of who we are.

Sure, some people complain about getting too many bills, but in truth, checking the mail is as American as apple pie.

It has become part of our daily routine. We miss it when it’s not there.

“Snow and ice make delivery dangerous,” says Iron Mountain/Kingsford Postmaster Michael Johnson. “Maintaining a clear path to the mail box including steps, porches, walkways and street approach will help letter carriers maintain consistent delivery service.”

Here’s what we can do to help:

– If you receive delivery of mail to a rural mailbox, you can keep the approach and exit from that box clear of snow. Specifically, clear around the box to allow your carrier to drive up to the box, deposit the mail and drive away. The Postal Service realizes this is no small task, but it is very important to ensure safe and timely delivery for everyone on the route.

– If your mail is delivered at your residence, the same holds true. Keep the path to your mail box or slot clear. Delivery personnel, meter readers, friends, and family all will benefit from a safe and convenient path to your door.

– Safety is a very high concern with the Postal Service. Employees are not required to put themselves or the equipment at risk unnecessarily. When walkways or mailbox approaches are not cleared and appear unsafe, delivery can be suspended until the situation is corrected.

Keep in mind you may be liable for injuries that occur on your property, especially if you have failed to provide safe access, officials said.

Remember, delivery service may be delayed or curtailed whenever streets or walkways present hazardous conditions for letter carriers or when snow is plowed against mailboxes.

“The Postal Service curtails delivery only after careful consideration, and only as a last resort,” says Johnson. “Any curtailed mail is attempted the next delivery day.”

Blue collection boxes also need to be kept clear for our customers to deposit their mail and for the Postal Service to collect the mail for delivery.

Residents and businesses with collection boxes near their property are asked to keep them clear of snow and ice.

“We want our letter carriers to be safe,” says Johnson. “We can only do this with the help of our customers.”

For healthy, active individuals planning to clear the snow themselves, experts offer the following guidelines:

– Get out there early. Snow tends to get heavier after it settles, especially once it gets walked on, or driven over, and packed down.

– Warm-up before shoveling and take the time to cool-down afterwards. A good stretch, a short walk, and/or some easy calisthenics, is usually enough to get blood flowing to your muscles and may help avoid injury. Cooling down after exertion helps to relieve tension and may prevent the body from stiffening-up later.

– Take smaller scoops. There’s no need to try and move it all at once so take it easy and chip away at it a little bit at a time.

– If moving heavier loads is required, bend knees and use legs to lift instead of bending at the waist and employing only your back.

– Try to minimize the amount you have to throw the snow and avoid twisting your body while supporting a load. Move feet instead of tossing heavy scoopfuls over large distances and turn your whole body instead of repetitively twisting your trunk.

– Switch hands and shovel on the other side of your body for part of the time. By changing from a right-handed position to a left-handed grip you’ll get a more balanced workout and possibly prevent straining muscles in the shoulders, neck, and back.

– Take short breaks every few minutes. Use the time to stand up straight and get out of the slouched-over position. Easy back bends may also help to ease some tension.

– Dress warmly in layers than can be easily shed as you start to heat up. Muscles tend to stiffen in the cold making us more vulnerable to injury.

– Select the right tool for the job and make sure your equipment is in good working order. For example, deep heavy snow moves better with a sturdy scoop or grain shovel, while a light dusting can be pushed away with a wide, flat shovel or broom. In addition, a broken or bent shovel only makes the job more difficult.

– Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exertion. It’s much easier than people think to get dehydrated in the winter and the body needs water to keep muscles and joints working properly.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.