AOC Employees Spur Asbestos Investigation by Office of Compliance

Posted August 25, 2003 at 11:07am

The Office of Compliance has begun an investigation to determine whether asbestos was present in a Cannon House Office Building room in which the Architect of the Capitol assigned several employees to perform construction work earlier this month.

“We want to know about the extent of asbestos and what procedures are followed with respect to asbestos. And we want to make sure proper procedures were followed,” said Peter Eveleth, general counsel for the Office of Compliance.

The asbestos is suspected in Room 263, where employees worked for several days this month. However, Eveleth said, the Architect’s office has not yet confirmed the presence of the material.

According to an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 26 official, the seven AOC employees began construction in the room on Aug. 12, removing tiles near a rear entrance, but were ordered to stop work three days later.

“One of the labor staff for the Cannon House Office Building questioned management and said, ‘Is there asbestos in there?’ and management said, ‘No,’ and they continued working and suddenly they were pulled off the job,” said Jay Power, of AFSCME Council 26.

A spokeswoman for the Architect was not immediately available to respond to the union’s allegations.

The seven employees, who were not outfitted with protective suits or respirators, are concerned they may have inhaled asbestos dust disbursed into the air when the tiles were cracked. One particular form of cancer, mesothelioma, is associated with asbestos.

The employees are also concerned that asbestos fibers attached to their clothing may have been introduced to their homes, possibly affecting family members.

Based on the investigation findings, Power said, the employees could request that the Architect’s office not oppose any worker’s compensation claims they may be field.

In addition, Power said, the group wants “the Architect of the Capitol to admit error in this [and] hold the manager accountable who was responsible for allowing our employees, our members to go into this hazardous condition.”

If the Office of Compliance confirms the presence of asbestos, Eveleth said, an abatement order would be issued to clean the area.