General Services Administration Mail Communications Policy Office Mail Center Security Guide

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Personal Protective Equipment

GSA does not recommend mandatory use of personal protective equipment (PPE) if the risk analysis does not support it. This includes gloves, aprons, and respirators (“respirator” is the correct term, rather than “mask”). On the other hand, GSA does recommend making PPE available for any mail center personnel who chose to use it. This equipment can cause problems, so any employee who chooses to use it must be trained. Removing gloves the wrong way can spread contamination, for example, and respirators can induce respiratory problems in some people. Respirators must be fitted by a trained expert to provide any useful level of protection. Managers must ensure that all equipment is kept clean and properly serviced.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provide guidance on selecting PPE to protect against bioterrorism, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidance on using PPE in workplaces. For the most current information, refer to the Centers for Disease Control website: and the OSHA website at
If some employees chose to use PPE, you should establish a log that lists when each employee completed equipment training.

Psychological Effects

More deeply than most of realize or are willing to admit, we have been profoundly affected by the attacks on the United States and the specter of a prolonged war against terrorism. We need to support each other and listen well with our ears and our hearts. For many reasons, this elevated need for good listeners will linger for a long time. In addition, the on-going hoaxes generated keep our emotions high in anticipation of another attack.

Feel and observe what is going on around you. Listen to what is being said and to what is not being said. Watch the attitudes, moods and body language of co-workers, friends and others with whom you interact. Do you sense that unspoken fears are troubling a co-worker? Does he/she seem unusually quiet, sad troubled or edgy? Trust your instincts and intuitions. Don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation. When you really care and when you are willing to take time to be with another you may be surprised at how readily people will open up and share their feelings with you. Create an atmosphere that welcomes sharing, while also being respectful of individuals who have little to say or prefer to remain silent.
For more information on coping with terrorism, visit the following web sites:
The American Psychological Association -- Coping with Terrorism, Tips for helping you cope after a terrorist attack, and reassurance that it is okay to feel fear and uncertainty about the future
American Medical Association – Fear and anxiety are normal human reactions to a perceived threat or danger. Uncertainty is manageable if people keep the threat of fear in perspective. “Knowledge and information based on fact can help us manage our anxieties”, says Richard K. Harding, M.D., and APA President Read more at:
American Psychiatric Association – Psychosocial, Post Traumatic Stress Resources, as well as resources for helping children
The Red Cross also has information available on how citizens can prepare for a terrorist attack
The attitudes and feelings of employees are critical to the success of your mail center during normal operations, and even more so in light of the attacks. It is important to recognize that some of your employees will have concerns about their personal safety. Managers need to be prepared to help employees carry out their jobs in these challenging times.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has prepared an excellent website with quick access to practical, timely resources: Topics there include:

  • Coping with violence, disaster, and stress

  • Hazardous duty pay

  • Leave administration

  • Responding to telephone threats

Every federal agency has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help restore employees to full productivity. The EAP provides free, confidential short term counseling to identify the employee’s problem and when appropriate, make a referral to an outside organization, facility or program to assist the employee in resolving their problem. Counselors are available to help manage fears. Mail managers should know how to avail themselves and employees of these services if they are needed. To locate the EAP serving your federal agency, call your human resource office and ask for the telephone number. For additional information about EAP, download Your Federal Employee Assistance Program: A Question and Answer Guide for Federal Employees at

A traumatic event in the workplace may impact an organizations ability to perform. Guidance for agency managers can be found in the Handling Traumatic Events: A Manager’s Handbook, which describes steps managers can take to provide effective leadership after a traumatic event. This is at

Workplace Violence

Employees who are being harassed, stalked or threatened inside or outside the workplace should inform their managers, and supervisors. Managers have a responsibility to be sensitive to the realities of workplace violence and the effects on employees from abuse outside the workplace. Some employees may be involved in domestic disputes that have the potential to erupt and spill over into the workplace. Every effort must be made to protect these employees and anyone else who may become an innocent victim.

Building security should be notified, and additional steps should be actions taken to protect these employees. If there appears to be an immediate threat, notify the law enforcement resource that can most readily provide security in the situation. This resource may be a local police officer, an Inspector, a Special Agent, or a Federal Protective Service Officer. Everyone in the office should know who the responsible law enforcement resources are and how to contact them. Establishing these contacts prior to a crisis can help in the event they are needed in an emergency. More information is available on workplace violence at the OPM website at and using the search tool type in workplace violence.

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