Asbestos in USDA Building May Be Making Workers Sick
It’s rather ironic that the people who have been charged with watching out for the health and safety of America’s food supply could be risking their own health while doing their job, simply because of renovations in the building in which they work.
Recently, a union representing USDA employees working in Washington D.C. released a statement expressing concern that officials are exposing workers to both toxic asbestos and lead paint. Specifically, the union accused management of “failing to provide sufficient notice about asbestos and lead abatement or to maintain secure, sealed physical barriers between ongoing work and staff at nearby desks.”
A recent probe by OSHA into these allegations stems specifically from a complaint forged by a USDA employee in late March. In the complaint, the employee noted fearing for his health.
Sherrie Carter, a finance and business loan specialist for the agency’s Rural Utilities Service who serves as president of a union local affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme), echoed the complaint, saying: “You have a lot of people here that are frustrated and feel as though their health is not being considered. It should’ve been handled way differently.”
Carter added that the agency’s “crackdown” on telecommuting (working from home) has made it difficult for employees to find a safe place to work.
Nonetheless, those who said they felt sick during the renovations were advised to contact their supervisors with a request to relocate or be able to work from home.
In a statement to the press, USDA officials said employees were given plenty of warning about the renovations and deny the fact that they were “discouraging” telecommuting. They also maintain that “protection procedures” were in place during the renovation work.