There's a pivotal scene in the savage comedy "Ad Wars" at the
Tiffany Theater. A stressed-out advertising executive whips a
pistol out of his briefcase and starts waving it about in a crowded
"Put that thing away!" gasps a colleague. "We're not postal
The play's audience understands the reference: There is a
widespread belief these days that the U.S. Postal Service is almost
as dangerous as a war zone. That conception was reinforced earlier
this month when a postal worker shot and killed a supervisor in an
Industry, Calif., mail-processing facility.
"Murder Ranks 2nd As Cause Of Postal Workers' On-Job Deaths,"
said a headline on an Associated Press story that listed five other
post office incidents in recent history. The recap included
details of the 1986 slaughter of 14 co-workers by an employee in
the Edmond, Okla., post office.
Just how dangerous is it to be a postal worker when compared to
other jobs? At the U.S. Department of Labor, Guy Toscano sifted
through some statistics this week and reported this: Postal work is
one of the safest occupations in the job pool. Postal workers are
not even a blip on the Department of Labor's scale of 1993
occupational fatalities, no matter how the statistics are compiled
- by job-related accident or homicide.
"Being a postal worker is not a dangerous occupation, even
though we have that impression," Toscano said. He contends that's
because most of the shootings have been highly publicized.
The incident in Oklahoma was a major national story because of
its 14 deaths, he said. Many of the other post office shootings
also claimed multiple victims. "That means they get a lot of hype."
Despite the impression given by postal incidents and
Wednesday's fatal shooting of four employees of the City of Los
Angeles' General Services Department - apparently by a disgruntled
co-worker - offices are not on the list of the most lethal job
There are dozens of more dangerous occupations, said Toscano,
an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We just started
compiling census data on fatal occupations two years ago," he said.
"We have 30 data elements about each incident, so it is very
Using the U.S. Census data, the bureau has various ways to rank
fatal workplaces, he said. "You can look at them by numbers or by
"Numbers" are the total number of people killed by accident in
an occupation. In 1993 (the latest year available), truckers led
the list with 699 killed. But, he added, there are probably a
million truckers, so that isn't a high fatality rate. …