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The company I work for rents office space, and we have recently had fiberglass insulation coming through the air vents, often in largish chunks (think dust bunnies that you'd find under a bed after a year of not cleaning). At first I thought this was merely an inconvenience, until I realized that there were also innumerable tiny particles that I couldn't see, which I was most certainly breathing.

I drafted a letter to the building owner, which our company's president sent. They sent people to look at the HVAC unit on the roof directly above our (top-floor) office, and claimed to have found and cleaned up the problem, but they did nothing about cleaning the air vents or cleaning up the office.

I have been wearing a 3M respirator, which seems to be effective, but it looks silly in an office environment and it is annoying that I have to wear it.

No one else seems to be concerned about the problem enough to do anything*. What should I do?

*Update: since my posting this, the president has informed the building owner that the HVAC people have not solved the problem. He (the building owner) has sent a maintenance person with a ladder to climb up and inspect the vents and see what he can do. That is happening right now, but seems like an exercise in futility. It's hard to see how anything less than a thorough cleaning of the air ducts could possibly solve the problem.

In response to the close votes:

Could someone explain why this is off topic? The current close reason doesn't make sense to me, since

  • This question is not asking about company-specific rules.
  • This question does not ask for legal advice.
  • This is not asking aboutt a specific company or position.
6

It seems like you're stuck in this cycle:

  1. You report problem
  2. Owner "fixes" it
  3. You confirm that it was effective
  4. If the problem really is fixed, thank the building owners for their help. If not, return to step 1.

You're currently on your second trip through this, stuck on step 2 - the latest "fix" isn't complete yet. I don't think there's much else for you to do at this point. If the building owners are currently in the process of having their maintenance people look at it, then you just have to wait and see if it actually gets resolved.

In the meantime, you could also ask your manager if he/she would be okay with you working remotely, if possible for your line of work, or at least temporarily moving to a less affected area of the office.

You noted:

No one else seems to be concerned about the problem enough to do anything

It doesn't seem like this matters, since the company president did communicate with the owners on your behalf. Whether or not your colleagues are complaining doesn't really matter. You already have the company president on your side.

Try to be understanding and patient as long as the owners are being responsive to your complaints and seem to be honestly working towards a solution.

If you find yourself (meaning both you and your company) going through this cycle multiple times, then it's up to you and your management to decide whether to pursue legal action (in many countries, landlords have a legal obligation to maintain their leased properties), or consider finding a new office space.

If at some point your management stops advocating for your health and safety, then the entire situation changes. Right now, it's basically a landlord vs. tenant issue since you and your higher management are on the same page. If that stops being the case, then it's you vs your management and that's an entirely different question that I'm not going to attempt to address here.

4

If you are in the US, report the problem to OSHA. If you live elsewhere, look to see if you have a government agency that regulates occupational safety.

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    What is likely to happen once a problem is reported to OSHA? What will be the consequences for the company I work for? How will this affect our relationship with the building owner? Will they actually accelerate a solution, or merely penalize the owner and make a bad situation worse? How much time and energy and documentation will this demand on our part? – iconoclast Feb 2 '17 at 19:05
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    They will require the problem to be fixed and the building owner may be fined. – HLGEM Feb 2 '17 at 19:54
  • Not sure about USA scpecifics, but OSHA and equivalent agencies work on employer-employee relation. They can fine the company - not the building owner - and prevent it from use that building as a working place, if it's deemed unsafe for workers. – Pere Sep 6 '18 at 17:51

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