Saul Schniderman, president of the Library of Congress Professional Guild, said the LOC is not doing enough to protect employees and should create a program designed to monitor asbestos levels at the facility.
Roll Call reports:
Library of Congress employees have not been exposed to unsafe working conditions, the LOC's General Counsel argued in response to an Office of Compliance citation for high levels of asbestos in an area of the Thomas Jefferson Building.
In a letter to the OOC on Jan. 4, the counsel responded to one of four citations issued by the OOC on Dec. 13, contending the Library met all procedures regarding asbestos monitoring and took proper measures to protect employees.
"After careful review, the Library has concluded that its employees have not been exposed to unsafe working conditions, as alleged in the citations," the Library wrote in a statement. "We are responding to all the matters raised by the Office of Compliance. Together with the Architect of the Capitol, the Library has been addressing various maintenance issues for some time in the Thomas Jefferson Building to ensure that it remains a safe environment for all Library employees."
But Saul Schniderman, president of the Library of Congress Professional Guild, said the LOC is not doing enough to protect employees and should create a program designed to monitor asbestos levels at the facility.
"For years our union has been raising concerns about asbestos at the Library of Congress," he said. "The recent exposure caused by damaged asbestos flooring in the Jefferson Building occurred because of neglect."
At the request of the guild, inspectors were first called to stacks in the Jefferson Building in August to determine whether any unsafe conditions had been created by heavy rains, said Nan Ernst, the guild's representative on the Library's health and safety committee.
Inspectors found water from a roof leak had damaged walls in Decks A and B, and cited the Library because of the potential for electric shock. Another citation was issued because water had caused the spread of lead paint particles.
While at the site inspectors also noticed nearby floor tiles and wall panels that contain asbestos had been damaged, and issued a third citation. In addition, inspectors discovered a passageway between Deck B and Deck 38 in the building had been seriously deteriorated because of the use of heavy book trucks. That also created high levels of asbestos, prompting the OOC to issue a citation.
"Once we were over there, everybody started going, 'What's going on with this floor?" Ernst said. "It was kind of alarming. ... It should have never deteriorated to that point."
According to the citation, the extent of the deterioration required the Library to collect monitoring data on asbestos levels. The Library conducted only one sampling of the air, after workers had tried to fix some of the damages by covering the floor with protective material. That did not meet safety requirements, according to the citation.
"Nobody was properly monitoring," Ernst said. "No one was paying close
enough attention, and that allowed this."
But in the general counsel's letter, which was written in direct response to the citation regarding the passageway damage, the Library argued that it had no notice that the floor materials in the passageway contained asbestos because the actual source of the asbestos was "not the floor surface itself but the underlayment."
The Library only found out about the asbestos after the request for inspection had been filed, the counsel wrote, and then took measures to properly address the issue.
According to a Library spokesman, LOC officials have until Jan. 31 to respond to two of the citations, and until Feb. 9 to respond to the final one.
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