Column: Interior employees worried about health
"Renovations are never easy, and that's the case at the Main Interior Building.

Almost from the start in 2002, employees in the building have been concerned about dust and fumes, and those concerns continue, according to a survey by the Interior Department's inspector general.

In the survey, 28 percent of respondents from the headquarters building "stated that serious health and safety deficiencies exist in their workplace."

The report said "this high percentage" was probably caused by the modernization project, a multimillion-dollar upgrade of heating, air conditioning, plumbing and wiring in the building that is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Departmental officials have tried to reassure the 1,700 employees at the C Street NW building that they are monitoring the renovation. Evaluations of health hazards were conducted in 2006 and 2007, and they produced recommendations to improve indoor air quality and address environmental problems.

Shane Wolfe, the department's press secretary, said another inspection has been scheduled for August. He said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne requested the audit because he is committed to improving health and safety practices across the department.

Barriers have been installed to minimize dust from construction areas, and an industrial hygienist is monitoring air quality in the building, Wolfe said.

The increased attention to construction practices has reduced employee complaints, from an average of three a month in 2006 to fewer than one a month now, he said."

Get the Story:
Stephen Barr's Federal Diary: Workers Worry About Health at Interior's Headquarters (The Washington Post 4/11)