“What we’d really like to do and what serves the public best and the Capitol employees best is the more comprehensive wall-to-wall inspections, where you are able to go from one side of the building to the other side of the building and look at many different program areas,” Mulligan said. “However, from budget constraints, it’s not a fiscally-appropriate way to go about it now.”
The report highlights two milestone safety improvements achieved in cooperation with the AOC during fiscal 2012: Fire hazards in the Longworth House Office Building, first identified during a March 2000 inspection, were resolved and a five-year, multi-million dollar project to fix life-threatening hazards in the Capitol Power Plant utility tunnels was completed.
“Hazardous conditions in the tunnels included asbestos exposure, temperatures exceeding 160 degrees Fahrenheit, falling concrete, insufficient emergency exits and an inadequate emergency communications system, among others,” the agency reported. The total price tag for the project, slightly more than $173 million, was 40 percent below the initial estimate and the project was completed one month ahead of schedule.
The OOC also revamped its operations for enforcing workplace fairness.
“As a part of streamlining the services provided by the agency, we renegotiated contracts and implemented a ‘flat rate’ for our mediation service providers,” Sapin writes. “This change allowed us to control costs while affording opportunities for mediators to work more efficiently and effectively in facilitating the early resolution of disputes.”
The OOC provides dispute resolution services nationwide for employees with claims of discrimination, harassment and other violations of workplace rights laws. Employee claims of discrimination in congressional agencies have more than doubled compared to five years ago, from 65 in fiscal 2008, to 134 in fiscal 2012.
Most of those claims involved race, followed by gender and pregnancy discrimination, age and disability. Employees, former employees of, or applicants to the U.S. Capitol Police filed 43 percent of the requests for counseling related to their claims, and 37 percent were filed against the Architect of the Capitol.
The OOC reports that the vast majority of cases were resolved confidentially under the Congressional Accountability Act’s dispute resolution process,
Sapin points out that the agency lowered costs without diminishing professional services. She writes that fiscal 2012 “proved to be another year of demonstrated commitment by the staff of the OOC.”
Full reports on the Occupational Health and Safety and ADA inspections will be released later in 2013.