Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
QUESTION NO: 109
To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Air Corps conducts mandatory risk assessments in the context of handling, using and storing dangerous and-or toxic chemicals; the date on which risk assessments in this regard became mandatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49522/18]
Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
I am advised by the military authorities that if an activity involving the use of chemicals is conducted then this activity will be risk-assessed in accordance with the relevant Health and Safety legislation. The risk assessment will outline the necessary control measures in the handling, use and storage of such chemicals or toxins.
Following three inspections at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel during 2016, the Health and Safety Authority issued a Report of Inspection to the Air Corps on 21 October, 2016. This report listed a number of advisory items for follow up, including the areas of risk assessments and safety statements.
The resultant Air Corps improvement plan confirmed the Air Corps’ full commitment to implementing improved safety measures that protect workers and ensure risks are as low as reasonably practicable. The plan was implemented over eight phases, seven of which the military authorities have advised are now complete, while phase eight – Chemical awareness training and respiratory equipment training – is a continuous, ongoing process.
I wish to assure the Deputy that the health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a key priority for me and the military authorities.
Minister Kehoe’s repeated assurances that the Health & Welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a key priority for him and the military authorities ring utterly hollow.
Neither Minister Kehoe nor the military authorities have taken any steps to ascertain if prolonged & unprotected toxic chemical exposure has caused harm to currently serving personnel. They would sooner personnel suffer and die needlessly rather than address the problem.
There has been no medical investigation, there has been no toxicological investigation. Minister Kehoe’s actions to date show he does not give a damn about the health & welfare of exposed Air Corps personnel.