Letterbox war zone

2013-10-23 00:00

IF you see a postman limping away from a postbox or clutching his hand, chances are that he has just been at the receiving end of a nasty attack. By a dog.

If you are as unfortunate as postman Naren Ramchander (47) from Chatsworth, you would have suffered this fate twice.

The increase in dogs attacking post delivery personnel has now prompted the Post Office to put them through additional training, like how to be on the look-out for dangerous animals, and never ever to put their hands through any gate where they cannot see what’s waiting on the other side.

Ramchander’s first major incident was in 2010 when a Rottweiler bit him. He had to undergo reconstructive surgery to his leg. “I put a letter inside the box and as I turned to leave, the dog came out the gate [that was not latched] and bit me on the ankle on my right leg. It came up my tendon,” he said. He was working at the Malvern depot in Queensburgh at the time.

Ramchander, a postman for 25 years, said he is now more vigilant. After the second incident last year he had to receive stitches.

The provincial Post Office has now sent out a letter pleading with residents to keep their canines at bay, following the three most recent attacks in Durban North.

Area manager Nathi Mkhwanazi said the situation had a negative effect on their ability to provide an effective service.

“We have had incidences where we suspect the owners hide when they see what is happening.

“They then blame the poor guy for being careless.”

He added some dog owners showed little sympathy or remorse.

The KZN postal service currently employs 921 delivery workers. This year alone, 20 workers in the province have been bitten by dogs.

The attacks also put a huge financial strain on the company. “Some of the people we hire work only as delivery agents, which means they are not employed on a permanent basis and therefore have no medical aid.”

“We end up incurring more costs by sending the injured people to hospital, sometimes private hospitals, depending on how severe the damage is,” said Mkhwanazi.

He added that some letter boxes were positioned in obscure places and that made their employees easy targets for dogs. “A postman would be trying to put a letter into the box and a dog would appear out of nowhere and pounce on him.

“Out of courtesy, a postman would try and slip a letter through the door and we now discourage that,” he said.

The workers had to go for two to three weeks of tuition in which they were taught how to be cautious at work.

“If they feel they are in danger, they come back with the mail and report those reasons to us,” he said.

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