I understand the United States Postal Service has some major challenges. They run 31,330 post office locations in the US, some of them with automatic postage dispensers in actual working order. In 2022, they delivered 127.3 billion pieces of mail. They suspiciously do not report how many pieces are submitted to them, but they do manage to deliver 127.3 billion to their appropriate destination. Well, a destination, anyway. And they do all this with a major number of their employees off the job due to workplace injury, languishing in what is widely known to be one of the worst managed workers’ comp systems in the country (either languishing or getting canned for being injured, depending on who you talk to).
In FY 2022, the US Postal Service incurred $1.31 Billion dollars in claims and administrative costs for their workers’ compensation program, which is managed by the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Program. The USPS Office of Inspector General released a report in May 2023, with findings that the USPS’s “workers’ compensation cost per workhour was between 31 percent and 41 percent higher than private industry.” The report generally blames legal restrictions that do not allow the postal service to pursue cost-cutting measures with the same ability organizations in the private sector enjoy.
Of course, the fact that the IG’s audit completely misses the point will not surprise anyone. The entire effort seems to be focused on financial cost reduction, with not one iota of concern or interest in the very best type of cost control: injury avoidance and accident prevention. In fact, the word avoidance appears just twice in the 21-page report, both times in the phrase “cost avoidance.” The word reduction appears twice, both times in the phrase “cost reduction.” By comparison, the report goes wild with the use of the word “safety.” It appears 9 times, albeit mostly as part of an agency or program name, and once referring to a digital tool used improperly in the tracking of “submitted claims.”
To be fair, it was a process audit, so it was likely intended to only look at management structure and method surrounding existing claims. But the sheer ignorance of failing to address the root cause of injury and workplace disability means the USPS will not be solving these issues anytime soon.
That topic could be the subject of a complete blog in itself, but that is not why we’re here today. No, the true topic of today is that the USPS is adapting to the changing economy and embracing technology headlong. This means they are already losing and delaying emails at a rate fully on par with their snail mail counterparts.
At WorkCompCollege.com, despite being a virtual entity, we send out a fair amount of physical mail. We send nicely printed Certifications and Challenge Coin tokens to our newly minted graduates. The WRP graduates get theirs in a nice, padded certificate holder. All of these packages are sent via the US Postal Service, with tracking enabled. We request to be notified simply when the package has arrived at its destination (or any reasonable destination within 5 or 6 miles of the intended, hopefully).
I use the same system when I send personal mail, such as when I sent a package to my sister in Colorado last December.
The problem is, 2 or 3 months ago, the notifications simply stopped coming. We keep requesting them, but they just never seemed to arrive. Then a few days ago, out of the blue, two emails were received notifying us of successful deliveries of two packages in Kentucky – delivered on January 14th. Then a day or two ago (depending on when you are reading this), February 6, 2024, I received another notification, proudly telling me my sister’s package had been successfully left on her porch.
On December 23, 2023. Thanks for the notice, guys.
We are left pondering where these messages have been piling up. We’ve heard many stories of physical mail getting jammed behind equipment, falling behind tables, and occasionally just being tossed in the trash. We wonder what the digital equivalent of that process actually looks like. Somewhere there is a blockage on the digital network, with bazillions of emails piled up behind it, unable to pass. A few are leaking out due to the incredible pressure, and one day the logjam will break free, and we will be inundated with outdated and useless delivery confirmations. Many innocents will be lost, I’m sure.
There were early signs of trouble as the USPS began its embrace of technology. Anyone who submitted a physical change of address online 10 or 15 years ago is probably still waiting for their forwarded mail. Even the guys behind the post office counter told us not to use “that crap online. Nobody knows where that stuff goes.” They’ve made solid gains again, but they clearly have a way to go.
Unless their virtual postal workers have injured themselves on the digital job, and are out on workers’ comp. In a federal program, anything is possible.