Tougher Safety-Rules Enforcement Sought for Hill

By Ramstack, Tom | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Tougher Safety-Rules Enforcement Sought for Hill


Ramstack, Tom, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


U.S. Capitol maintenance employees are asking Congress for tougher health and safety standard enforcement after a report in March that found they had the highest injury rate among federal workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported recently that the Architect of the Capitol's Office had 17.9 injuries for every 100 full-time employees, the highest rate among 130 federal agencies surveyed.

The architect's office oversees maintenance of the Capitol, the Library of Congress and congressional offices with its nearly 2,000 employees.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees wants Congress to add enforcement provisions to the Congressional Accountability Act, which requires congressional offices to follow the same workplace safety standards as private employers. The act was passed in 1995 but limits the Office of Compliance - the health and safety agency for Congress - to issuing citations that merely inform violators of a health or safety problem.

At a rally outside the Capitol last Friday, AFSCME representatives complained the act does not compel the Architect of the Capitol's Office to act responsibly.

"If this was a private corporation, someone would be responsible for these violations, either through criminal penalties or through fines," said Don Maddrey, AFSCME's legislative affairs representative. "We feel that there needs to be something to hold the architect's office accountable."

Since the Congressional Accountability Act was passed, 29 health and safety citations have been issued against the architect's office, Mr. Maddrey said.

"This is the Congress of the United States," he said. "They of all people should be setting the example - not being the worst on record."

Officials of the union's Council 26, which represents about 10,000 federal employees, said the act should authorize fines and restraining orders against congressional offices.

Hilda Fields, an AFSCME member who cleans the Rayburn House Office Building, said the denials of medical benefits she encountered after developing carpal tunnel syndrome was an example of how workers' health is sometimes overlooked. …

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