The other day a friend of mine directed me to CWU (The Communications Workers Union) letter to it’s members about it’s re-launch of their Low Level Letter Box Campaign.

I’ve not really covered letter boxes on DGB in all that depth and detail before. But here presents a good opportunity to tick that box!

The CWU campaign

In the letter sent to me, the CWU explain their position on low level letter boxes, that they believe Building Regulation law should be changed to outlaw them completely, and to take action where they see low level letter boxes being installed on new housing developments. If you want to read the three page letter in full click here. But below are some of the key paragraphs from their letter, explaining their position and reasoning:

The Communications Workers Union has been campaigning to outlaw low level letterboxes for many years. The CWU has been striving for the European Standard (EN13724) to be added to UK Building Regulations – this requires that letterboxes should be positioned at a suitably accessible height, accessible to postal delivery workers, significantly reducing possible injuries such as, dog bites, fingers being trapped or back strain caused when bending excessively to reach ground level boxes…

…The Union would stress that it does not expect private householders or businesses to change their doors immediately – our campaigns have always centred on government seeing the merit of our arguments and taking action to minimise the risk of injury to CWU members by passing legislation to cover the manufacture of all new and replacement house doors.

A similar campaign run by the CWU’s sister union in the Republic of Ireland resulted in all low level letterboxes being banned back in 2001. Given the fact that Royal Mail has by Law an obligation to deliver to each of the 29,000,000 UK addresses, the CWU feels the time has come to standardise letter box height and safe design well above ground level.

The problem with low level letter boxes is that back injuries to postmen and women occur each year in Royal Mail and delivering to low level letter boxes at the base of a house front door forces postal staff to stoop to ground level repetitively to deliver mail items which can cause or exacerbate back strain and back conditions. Low level letter boxes also present an increased risk of dog bites when the mail is pushed through the aperture at ground level and fingers get trapped.

In 2002 the European Standard EN 13724 was introduced and states that for “ergonomic and safety reasons” the centre line of the letter box aperture should be at a height between 700mm (2ft 3.5 inches) and 1700mm (5ft 7inches).

The CWU therefore considers that the government should implement the specifications set out in current European Standard (EN 13724) covering private letter boxes. The government has on several occasions rejected calls from the CWU to enact European Building Regulation Standard EN13724 outlawing low level letter boxes by enshrining the standard in law.

The Union has in the past won the support of Royal Mail Group as well as many influential bodies and organisations during its campaign including the HSE, National House-Building Council, the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF), Local Authorities and Coordinators of Regulatory Services.

The letter says that the Union doesn’t expect private house holders or businesses to change their doors “immediately”. I read that as a fairly unveiled hint that they really would like them to change them sooner rather than later. But maybe that’s just me.

Overall, some coherent reasoning behind the effort. Dog bites are not pleasant, back injuries are awful too. I have several family members that suffer from bad back pain on a regular basis. And we see that bodies like the GGF and NHBC have got behind the effort in the past.

Do I think this is an effort that is going to be heard? No. Let me explain why.

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Bigger problems

If you read the letter all the way to the end the author of the letter eludes to the risk that Brexit will get in the way of hearing requests like this. Unfortunately for him and for those who would like to see low-level letter boxes outlawed that is probably indeed going to be the case.

Brexit is at it’s most important crossroads right now and is consuming a hell of a lot of Parliament’s time and resources. In less than two weeks the Prime Minister will try and gain a successful vote on her Brexit deal, which as it stands right now is almost guaranteed to fail. Chaos will ensure on December 11th as no one will really know what to do after that. So the idea of Parliament debating the banning of low-level letter boxes is going to be about last on the list of things to talk about.

I think we’d also see a bit of resistance from door manufacturers and even some home owners. Take composite door manufacturers for example. A lot of designs on the market right now only allow letter boxes near the bottom of the doors. So imagine this law is passed and the home owner wants said door design that only allows the letter box to be fitted near the bottom. The installer would have to tell them that they either fit a box to the wall for their mail or change away from the door design they actually like for something else, all for the letter box. It does seem to be in the sort of scenario hugely imbalanced that something as small as a letter box could dictate the type of door a home owner goes for. And trust me, not everyone wants a box on their wall for the mail. Plenty of good reasons why they’re not a good idea too.

Speaking from the perspective of an installer, it would be a sticky sell to a home owner trying to sell them a different design of door all because of where a letter box can or cannot go. In the past I have actually suggested letter boxes fitted on to the wall outside. Many were not keen.

I think this campaign comes from a good place. But given the nature of our politics right now and the list of priorities, no matter who backs it outside of Government, this is going to be pushed to the bottom of the pile.

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