Fedweek

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The GSA “is not effectively managing its fire, safety, and health program to identify and mitigate hazards arising from high-risk uses of space” in federal buildings, an inspector general report has said.

Such “special use” spaces include firing ranges, areas for the storage of ammunition and other explosives, and onsite laboratories, which “often presents unique fire, safety, and health hazards.”

GSA’s Public Buildings Service has a policy aimed at tracking such uses by tenant agencies and addressing the risks they may cause. However, the report said that the PBS has not identified all such uses and “as a result, GSA buildings, personnel, tenants, and visitors may be at risk.”

The report was a follow-up to one the IG issued in 2020 finding that PBS personnel did not have a clear understanding of the fire and other safety requirements in buildings hosting child care centers.

The new review specifically cited one building — whose identity was redacted from the report — with a lab containing “chemical storage areas that house multiple flammable substances” several stories above a child care center.

Other findings included that: in a sample of 31 spaces, auditors identified 14 with high-risk use that were not identified in the PBS data; that eight of PBS’s 11 regions had not requested or collected high-risk use permits and that none of them had fully complied with the space evaluation policy; and that some responsible officials they spoke with had not received training on the policy for years and that some of what was taught at that time was incorrect.

The report said that since the audit work was done, the GSA has issued new a policy requiring compliance reviews of documents, including client project agreements and facility survey and inspection records at least biannually.

However, the IG said that while the new policy more clearly defines high risk operations, it still lacks specifics on what would be considered acceptable or unacceptable conditions for adjacent tenants, and that it further “does not specify how PBS will ensure compliance.”

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