Fourteen employees at a call center on Wylds Road were sent to the hospital Thursday after ventilation issues caused breathing problems.
Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department Special Operations Chief Wayne Taylor said the problem at Teleperformance USA appears to have originated after a roofing company used sealant near an air-conditioning unit, resulting in breathing problems for some employees who already have asthma or other respiratory issues.
Taylor said the fire department was called about 11:25 a.m. to clear the building and use meters that register lower explosive limits, carbon dioxide and other chemicals. The results came back negative.
The office was closed for part of the
day as crews worked to increase ventilation.
About 400 employees working at the center were sent home as a “safety precaution” after the sealant’s odor seeped into the air-conditioning unit during a regular roof maintenance, said site director James Bailey.
The Augusta location has a total of about 900 employees.
At about 2 p.m., he said the building was safe to re-enter.
Brittany Bennett, who works inside the building for DIRECTV, was called back into work about an hour after being sent home. When she left the center, she said there were multiple fire trucks, police units and five ambulances outside when employees evacuated the building.
Bennett said her department is located in the front of the building and that those working in the back portion were most affected by the odor.
“It wasn’t that bad for us, but I know for them it was really bad,” she said. “Hopefully, it’s not that bad when I go in.”
Bennett said she believed the smell to be gas.
The center is scheduled to fully re-open Friday, according to Teleperformance staff.
Teleperformance USA opened its call center behind Augusta Mall in 2008. Its employment level fluctuates as the company gains and loses clients.
The company is based in Paris and has 281 contact centers in 45 countries. Nearly 83,000 employees work for Teleperformance worldwide.
Teleperformance provides customer service representatives for other companies, including Microsoft, Dell, Apple, AT&T and Price-Line.