Two civilian employes at Fort Belvoir filed suit against Army officials yesterday, alleging that federal safety and health violations are being violated at the base. They complain of fire hazards, furniture that falls apart and lack of heat and air conditioning.
Robert T. Moran and Claude E. Dawley, who supervise about 150 employes in the accounting offices at the base, allege in the suit that workers "resign because of these gross working conditions."
The plaintiffs, who are not seeking money damages, are asking the U.S. District Court in Alexandria to order the defendants, Army Secretary John O. Marsh Jr. and Fort Belvoir's commander, Maj. Gen. R.S. Kem, to improve the working conditions at Buildings 219 and 258 and comply with standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Marilu Trainor, speaking for Fort Belvoir, said that when notification of the suit is received, "the allegations will be looked into and appropriate response or action will be considered by government authorities."
Moran, the post's chief of accounting, said yesterday he had been trying to get improvements for over two years. "We've tried everything in the world," he said. "We have requested them to comply, to fix things, and it just falls on deaf ears."
Moran said there is no hot water or paper towels in restrooms and, in the winter, "to wash hands is a real shock, it's freezing." The suit alleges that trash removal does not occur daily and that the furniture, which comes "from disposal or reclamation centers," often falls apart causing "minor injuries, torn clothing . . . . "
"It is not uncommon for temperatures during the winter to be between 55/60 degrees and 96/100 degrees in summer," the complaint asserts. Moran said several times he had to bring a kerosene heater to work to keep warm and one of his workers "has an old pair of gloves with the fingers cut out" to wear at work.
In addition, the complaint alleges the buildings' electricial systems are overloaded and pose fire hazards.
The suit says that, contrary to federal law, "there is not one penny . . . in the installation's budget" for safety improvements. The base's safety director is unable to carry out his legal mandate because he has insufficient funds and "is buried four layers down in the chain-of-command," the complaints states.
Safety Director Roger LaForge declined to comment.
Moran and Dawley's suit also demands that the phrase "CENTER FOR EXCELLENCE" be removed from Fort Belvoir's official stationery. "The motto is inconsistent with the actual ghetto work conditions . . . and pre-World War II sweatshops like Buildings 219 and 258," said Moran.