OK Dept. of Labor Investigates State Capitol Workers' Safety

Tuesday, May 13th 2014, 5:11 pm
By: News 9

State officials are describing Oklahoma's State Capitol Building as a dangerous place to work, while lawmakers continue debating over how best to pay for a fix.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma's Department of Labor opened an investigation concerning employees' safety. John Estus with Management and Enterprise Services tells News 9 something falls apart on the building about every week. On the outside, large gaps and cracks can be seen. On the inside, the smell of raw sewage fills the halls of the basement.

5/12/2014 Related Story: Concrete Chunk Falls Into Oklahoma Capitol Office

"We have things falling from the ceiling and things coming up from beneath the floor," said Estus.

Estus helps manage the iconic state government building. He says lawmakers have kicked the can down the road for more than four years. Now is the time, according to Estus and his peers. They say the building is a safety hazard.

Plumbing, electric work and structural concerns are all part of an estimated $160 million price tag. Experts warn the dollar amount will only go up if something isn't done now. On Monday, money was no longer the main concern -- people's lives are at risk.

"Had he been in here when this fell, it would have been a bad situation," Estus said.

A four-pound chunk of rock came crashing through the ceiling onto a staffer's desk Monday. No one was injured, according to state officials. The same office reeks of water mixed with feces. At times, the smell is similar to that of an outdoor toilet on a hot summer day. The sewage has been found on floors and has soaked carpet in some areas.

"Unfortunately, the smell is something we've gotten used to," admitted Estus.

News 9 called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the State Department of Labor on Tuesday. An OSHA spokesperson did not immediately know if the federal government could trump a state investigation over conflict of interest concerns. A spokesperson with the Oklahoma Department of Labor said state officials began investigating employee safety following media coverage of the latest safety concerns.

On Tuesday, lawmakers continued debating bills in a part of the building that doesn't smell. There's one month left to decide on money. The people downstairs working nine to five hope some of the money will come their way. Oklahomans have spent roughly $8 million in the last 10 years on patch-up work at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building.