HEALTH AND SAFETY: IT'S IN THE AIR

 

PSCcuny
NEWS BULLETIN

APRIL 2001

 

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Have you noticed any of these problems on your campus? Falling or crumbling ceiling tiles, mold, strange odors, lack of heat or air conditioning, dangling insulation, leaking roofs? These problems are not just unpleasant—they can be hazardous to your health, and they are increasingly common at CUNY.

Since the fall, the PSC Health and Safety Advisory Committee and chapter Health and Safety Committees have been newly active on health and safety problems, with poor indoor air quality and construction-related conditions among the most common complaints. Some of the most serious problems have included:

  • Leaks and mold at Queens College, as well as chipped asbestos floor tiles.

  • Leaks and mold and loose fiberglass at LaGuardia Community College, resulting in illness among PSC members. Over 40 people at LaGuardia have been undergoing medical testing at the Mt. Sinai-Irving J. Selikoff Occupational Medicine Clinic.

  • Construction debris and lack of heat at City College.

  • Extensive mold at the College of Staten Island.

  • “Sick building syndrome” reported at the Hunter College Campus Schools.

Indoor air quality problems at Bronx Community College and the Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center (EOC).

“It should come as no surprise that years of disinvestment in CUNY have taken their toll on our buildings,” said PSC Health and Safety Committee Co-Chair Joan Greenbaum. “Delayed maintenance and underfunding for repairs have resulted in a rash of problems this past year with heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and extensive mold growth. We should not have to put up with these conditions.”

It is management’s responsibility to “provide a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards,” according to Article 39 of the PSC contract. “Lack of funds is not a legitimate excuse for endangering our health and making our daily lives difficult and uncomfortable,” said Dave Kotelchuck, the committee’s other co-chair. “When you see, smell or hear of a health and safety problem you should immediately notify your campus health and safety officer or designated health and safety person and copy your local PSC health and safety representative or your chapter chairperson.” Kotelchuck noted that written complaints to campus officials, either on paper or via e-mail, tend to get more attention than phone calls.

“When serious problems are reported,” said Greenbaum, “management needs to take prompt action. Serious problems should be rectified in hours or days, not months.”

The PSC’s current contract demands would bring Occupational Safety and Health Officers (OSHA officers) back into our bargaining unit on each campus. The union is also demanding that each campus have at least one full-time trained health and safety officer, so that such issues can be dealt with promptly and, if possible, locally.

A number of CUNY campuses have active chapter committees on health and safety. These committees act as the eyes and ears of the PSC for health and safety on each campus, making sure that problems are reported promptly to management and remedial action taken. If you would like to join your local chapter’s Health and Safety Committee, contact your chapter officers. If you want more information about working with the PSC on health and safety issues, please call Joan Greenbaum or Dave Kotelchuck at 212-354-1252. You can also email Joan at joang@lagcc.cuny.edu or Dave at dkotelch@hunter.cuny.edu.