What GAO Found
The United States Postal Service's (USPS) mail carriers--who delivered mail to nearly 132 million delivery points nationwide in fiscal year 2012--can be injured while delivering mail in a number of ways, for example by being bitten by a dog or being involved in a vehicle collision. According to USPS officials, there were 32,213 reported injuries in fiscal year 2012, 11,717 (36 percent) of which were related to mail delivery. According to USPS's 2012 data, the most frequently reported cause of injury for routes that are primarily conducted on foot is dog bites, while the most frequently reported cause of injury for delivery on rural routes--which is often conducted in vehicles--is vehicular collisions. Additionally, USPS's data indicate that most injuries that occurred from 2009 through 2012 on mail delivery routes were caused by falls and dog bites. Falls to the ground were among the most common circumstances leading to injury that resulted in either restricted work activity or days away from work, but repetitive motions were the most common cause of long-term occupational illnesses regardless of severity or route type.
Why GAO Did This Study
According to USPS officials, USPS employee injuries are largely due to the often physically demanding, industrial, and highly repetitive nature of their work. The Federal Employees' Compensation Act provides for cash and medical benefits to eligible federal employees who suffer temporary or permanent disabilities resulting from work-related injuries, including traumatic injuries or occupational illnesses. Like other federal agencies, USPS pays its workers' compensation costs through the federal workers' compensation program administered by the Department of Labor. USPS's workers' compensation costs have increased in recent years. USPS's workers' compensation expense for fiscal year 2012 was $3.7 billion, compared to $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2009, a 68 percent increase. USPS is in a serious financial crisis and has not generated sufficient revenue to cover its expenses and financial obligations as mail volume continues to decline. USPS recently proposed initiatives in its Five-Year Business Plan to help it achieve cost savings, including an initiative that focuses on expanding the centralization of delivery points. Recent legislative proposals for postal reform in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate also consider provisions that include the expansion of centralized delivery points to achieve cost savings.
GAO was asked to review available information on injuries related to mail delivery. GAO obtained and reviewed 2009 through 2012 USPS data on workforce injuries by various route types (as classified by USPS's Office of Safety and Health, Employee Resource Management), including data on the frequency, circumstance leading to injury, and the severity of injuries. GAO analyzed these data, assessed their reliability--for example, by reviewing related documentation and interviewing knowledgeable agency officials--and determined that USPS's data on injuries occurring during mail delivery were reliable for providing descriptive information on postal workforce injuries by route type for these fiscal years.
GAO is not making recommendations in this report. GAO provided a draft of the report to USPS and the agency did not have any comments.
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