Asbestos in Federal Buildings:

Federal Efforts to Protect Employees From Potential Exposure

RCED-93-9: Published: Oct 6, 1992. Publicly Released: Nov 12, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the extent and condition of asbestos-containing materials in federally owned buildings; and (2) selected federal agencies' efforts to minimize the potential for release of asbestos fibers from these materials.

GAO found that: (1) many federal buildings contain asbestos; (2) of the 14 worksites across 5 agencies visited, there was a considerable amount of asbestos material and many instances of damages or deteriorated material; (3) the federal agencies reviewed have not taken action to ensure that their worksites have asbestos management programs that comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and the principal recommendations set out in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance; and (4) worksite programs were not comprehensive or did not demonstrate the attention to detail needed to minimize the potential for asbestos fibers to be released.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OSHA issued its revised asbestos standard in August 1994 to clarify its requirements related to agencies implementing asbestos maintenance programs.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that federal employees are not exposed to unhealthful amounts of asbestos fibers, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to clarify the conditions under which agencies are required to implement asbestos maintenance programs at federal work sites.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department sent a memorandum to the Director of the Departmental Office of Operations and agency heads reminding them of their responsibility for control and management of asbestos. These requirements are also emphasized by including them in the revised DR 4400-1, Department Occupational Safety and Health Management. In addition, agencies are required to report asbestos control activities as part of their submission to the Department's annual report to OSHA.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy and the Administrators of EPA and General Services should inform those responsible for their worksites of the need to implement OSHA requirements and ensure that the requirements are effectively carried out.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department has developed an industrial hygiene standard for controlling asbestos hazards to Department of Energy (DOE) contractor employees in DOE facilities. The standard established the requirements for a contractor asbestos management program. A similar standard has been established for DOE facilities that house DOE federal employees. The Department is also issuing "Health Watches" to inform the DOE community of federal regulatory changes, including asbestos issues.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy and the Administrators of EPA and General Services should inform those responsible for their worksites of the need to implement OSHA requirements and ensure that the requirements are effectively carried out.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has developed new policy and standard operating procedures for the management of asbestos-containing material at all EPA-occupied facilities. Increased emphasis has been placed on evaluating asbestos management programs and maintenance practices during the course of every safety, health, and environmental management audit. In addition, EPA's Safety, Health and Environment Division established an internal task force in partnership with GSA to coordinate the resolution of other asbestos issues.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy and the Administrators of EPA and General Services should inform those responsible for their worksites of the need to implement OSHA requirements and ensure that the requirements are effectively carried out.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA officials have informed their worksite managers of the need to comply with asbestos management requirements and put additional emphasis on monitoring their compliance.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy and the Administrators of EPA and General Services should inform those responsible for their worksites of the need to implement OSHA requirements and ensure that the requirements are effectively carried out.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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