Hoyer: Congress Must Act to Ensure Workers’ Safety

For Immediate Release:

April 26, 2006

Contact:Stacey Farnen Bernards
(202) 225 - 3130

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement regarding an article in The Hill reporting that employees of the Architect of the Capitol (AoC) working in utility tunnels may have been exposed to asbestos levels over the personal exposure limit set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

    “Earlier this spring, I was astonished and outraged to learn that several employees of the AoC may have been exposed over a period of several years to unacceptably high levels of asbestos, and that the Architect of Capitol himself may have known of the danger for as long as six years without taking appropriate steps to protect employees working in the tunnels, monitor their health, and remove toxic materials from any AoC facilities.

    “Now it appears the Architect chose to suppress laboratory tests commissioned by his office that showed asbestos levels in several utility tunnels to be over the personal-exposure limit set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, even as he maintained to Members of Congress that no tests had registered above OSHA standards.

    “If the latest report is true, it speaks volumes about the current leadership of the Architect of the Capitol in terms of his managerial competence, respect for his employees’ health and safety, and commitment to apprising Congress in a forthright and thorough manner of all developments under his supervision, however difficult and unpleasant they may be.

    “In the days ahead, the House and Senate must take vigorous action to ensure that every employee of the AoC is properly protected from any workplace conditions that violate OSHA standards.

    “Further, Congress should seriously consider revising the laws that govern the Architect of Capitol with the objective of making the office more accountable to the legislative branch.  Outside the annual appropriations process, the current system simply does not give Congress the means to hold the AoC to account on a day-to-day basis.”    

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