While the GSA does capture information about asbestos hazards in federal buildings, those records are incomplete and don’t track “when or if” required re-inspections have been performed, GAO has said.
Under a 2015 policy, all GSA buildings constructed before 1998 are to have an initial asbestos survey and that information is to be entered into a database. However, auditors found that the data were missing for two-thirds of buildings under GSA’s custody and control that were constructed before that date. Further, that database does not capture whether re-inspections are being conducted annually as required.
Having better data would help GSA and local building managers deal with asbestos hazards, and “if condition re-inspections are not conducted—or are not conducted at the annual interval prescribed by GSA policy—workers could be exposed to damaged asbestos fibers that are unnoticed,” GAO said.
GSA officials told GAO that the database’s interface “is not user friendly and requires difficult workarounds” and that it lacks a data field for tracking re-inspections, but that an upgrade is in the works.
GAO said that OSHA separately examines for asbestos in federal buildings as part of its safety inspections and that since 2013 it has found violations in 72 buildings, about 2 percent of those it examined. Further, the OWCP approved 50 injury compensation claims from federal workers related to asbestos in that time, mostly from people working in industrial settings.