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Potential Occupational Hazards in Capitol Building Restoration Project

Posted on behalf of the author, Dusten Dussex

 

In early 2014, the United States’ Architect of the Capitol (AOC) went into motion to restore Washington D.C.’s degenerating Capitol Building dome. From afar, the iconic structure may appear pristine to viewers, but since completion of the last renovations in 1960, the dome has slowly succumbed to the elements. The paint is now chipping, the cast iron rusting, and water is leaking in through the dome, endangering the artwork of the rotunda within. According to the project plan, the deteriorating exterior paint will be removed, the cast iron repaired, and the entire dome repainted. The $60 million project is scheduled to be completed by the 2017 presidential inauguration, and will face many unique challenges.

An intricate scaffolding system has already been put into place so that workers can safely access the entirety of the dome, along with a safety net underneath the interior rotunda to protect visitors from falling objects. Mid-century lead based paint is scheduled to be blasted off with abrasive material. Due to the potential neurotoxicity of lead, respiratory protection is needed for this process, along with stringent containment procedures. The iron will then be primed and the cracks will be brazed, which also presents hazards to the workers, as this can produce toxic metal fumes from any impurities that may be found in the cast iron. Yet, while keeping safety in mind, these repairs must also be done quickly so that the repainting and sealing can take place. Additionally, it takes little time for the rusting process to begin once exposed to the open air. On top of the challenges stated above, much of the repairs will be taking place at night, so as not to disturb the work of either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

According to this agenda, the work by the AOC will restore the dome to its original splendor while maintaining the health and safety of workers and visitors.

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