"A Capitol Place to Be" [news story, April 20] shows a serious lack of concern for safety from a man who is responsible for the well-being of some 2,000 employees and who is charged with the maintenance and upkeep of the Capitol complex.

I disagree with Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman's characterization of fire-safety problems on Capitol Hill as "journalistic hyperbole." How is it journalistic hyperbole when the House inspector general determines that the U.S. Capitol and five House office buildings are firetraps that leave visitors, members of Congress and employees with an "undue risk of loss of life and property"?

Recently an Office of Compliance investigation revealed 14 Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations by the architect of the Capitol at the Capitol power plant. Employees are exposed to coal dust, asbestos, freon and other chemicals. Prior investigations and union research revealed that:

Laborers who were not wearing proper protective gear were forced to crawl through garbage to retrieve documents.

Custodial workers were required to use vacuum cleaners with faulty, exposed wires.

Staffing levels, which have fallen by 40 percent, increase the likelihood of injuries and illnesses due to increased workloads.

Absence of safety instructions signs has resulted in employees being exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- which represents more than 600 Capitol Hill employees -- is concerned for the safety of every employee and visitor who enters the Capitol complex. For that reason, I have written Rep. William M. Thomas, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, requesting a hearing on these health and safety and staffing concerns.

The Office of Compliance and the inspector general have come to the same conclusions concerning safety violations by the architect of the Capitol. These violations pose a serious threat to those who work in or visit the Capitol complex. The time is long overdue to provide a safe environment at one of the world's premier democratic institutions.


International President

American Federation of State, County

and Municipal Employees