Social Security employees win inquiry on building Health dangers cited in annex complaints

September 07, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Amid employee claims of safety and health hazards at the Social Security Administration Annex building in Woodlawn, the agency's Inspector General's office has launched an investigation of those complaints.

The inquiry came at the request of 2nd District Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., after his office received several complaints from constituents about what they said were problems at the building.

James Huse, assistant inspector general for criminal investigations, declined to give specifics about the complaints or the investigation, but said officials have been interviewing employees for the past few months.

"It's a really old issue of whether or not there is or was asbestos out there," Huse said. "All I can say is that based on employee complaints, there is an investigation under way."

Employees at the annex have, where about 1,000 people work and which is undergoing renovations, have long complained about air quality, fatigue, burning eyes and a nauseating odor.

Steven Kreseski, Ehrlich's chief of staff, said that the Republican congressman requested the investigation after learning of the complaints and meeting with Social Security management.

"Now, we are awaiting that report to determine, what, if any future action needs to be taken," Kreseski said.

John Gage, head of the American Federation of Government Employees local that represents Social Security's 14,000 workers, said some employees have complained of allergic reactions and illnesses, which they say they believe may have been caused by dirty air vents and faulty heating and ventilation systems in the building.

Gage said officials have responded to employee concerns about asbestos with an abatement plan, which calls for management to look for asbestos and for its removal if any is detected.

A meeting also was held several months ago with management to discuss implementing a study of the complaints of illness.

"Those buildings are old, and the type of work that needs to be done on the [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems can't be done in a day," Gage said.

"I'm confident that management is following proper protocol in dealing with the problems," he said.

Pub Date: 9/07/96

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