The move that could ban low-level letterboxes across Scotland

Government officials looking at changes to building standards guidance

They are the bane of posties up and down the country, who claim they put unnecessary strain on their backs and increase the risk of injury. But now, Scottish ministers are considering a ban on low level letterboxes in new properties.

While some countries, including Ireland, have issued bans on the installation of the letter boxes in an attempt to prevent postal workers from back injuries, the administrations at Westminster and Edinburgh have not been so quick as to bend to the will of campaigners.

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The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has lobbied on the issue for years, stressing that thousands of post delivery workers were still being affected by back pain every year, partly because of the location of letterboxes. The low level of the boxes, they add, also make it easier for errant dogs to attack unwitting delivery staff.

But there could soon be respite, after Scotland’s housing minister confirmed that government officials were looking at potential amendment to building standards rules, which could mean no new properties could include the low letterboxes.

The issue was raised at Holyrood this week by Stuart McMillan, the SNP MSP for Greenock & Inverclyde, who said he had been working with the CWU’s national health and safety officer for more than a year on the issue. The installation of the low level boxes, he said, represented a health and safety risk for staff.

Mr McMillan told MSPs: “I am told that there are no objections to banning low-level letterboxes in future developments or in door replacements, because that would benefit postal workers by reducing the risk of injury.”

Asked what steps the Government was taking, housing minister Paul McLennan replied: “Officials are engaging with the CWU and are assessing the options for amendment to building standards guidance, subject to further engagement with industry stakeholders. That amendment would provide more explicit guidance about the positioning of the letterboxes provided in new dwellings.

Union officials warn that postal workers face a greater risk of injury with the low level letter boxes. Picture: PAUnion officials warn that postal workers face a greater risk of injury with the low level letter boxes. Picture: PA
Union officials warn that postal workers face a greater risk of injury with the low level letter boxes. Picture: PA

“I am committed to reviewing the building standards guidance regarding low-level letterboxes and am working with stakeholders, prior to any change to building standards guidance, to confirm that there will be no unintended consequences. Officials will continue engaging with the CWU and with wider industry stakeholders to assess the options for amending building standards guidance.”

This issue was first raised by the CWU as far back as 1958 when the British Standards Agency deemed it appropriate that letterboxes be installed at a proper height. However, its view was not enshrined into building standards law. Nearly 70 years on, the union says the huge increase in house building over recent years has made the problem worse for postal workers.

The CWU wants governments to adopt a European standard that sets and specifies, for ergonomic and safety reasons, a minimum height of 70cm for letterboxes. However, Craig Anderson, the union’s regional secretary, said that ministers should go further than a ban on low level letterboxes in new builds, and ensure that any new standards also covered replacement front doors.

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