DoL Issues Anthrax Safety Guidelines

October 24, 2001( - US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao issued recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that will reduce the risk of anthrax exposure when handling mail.

While stressing that the risk of exposure to anthrax in most offices is minute, Chao noted that a few common sense steps should also be taken. The guidelines are part of an effort to ensure that the American people know that workplaces will remain safe.

Chao advised workers to exercise good judgment and caution when handling mail and take the following precautionary measures as outlined by OSHA:

  • be on the lookout for suspicious letters and packages, including packages or envelopes of unusual weight or size, packages or envelopes with a handwritten address and/or no return address and packages or envelopes with excessive postage
  • open packages and envelopes with a minimum amount of movement and always use a letter opener or a method less likely to disturb the contents,
  • do not blow into envelopes,
  • do not shake or pour out the contents,
  • keep hands away from nose and mouth when opening mail, and
  • always wash hands after handling mail

Disease can be prevented after exposure to the anthrax spores by early treatment with the appropriate antibiotics. Anthrax is not spread from one person to another person.

– Camilla Klein        

Additional information is available on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration?s Web site at