Dáil Éireann Written Answers 05/04/17 – Irish Army Air Corps – Main Technical Stores Air Quality Test Reports

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will provide a copy of the results of the air-quality test that was carried out in the Main Technical Stores, Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel and adjoining office complex on the 9 February 2017 by an external assessor. [16892/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

The Occupational Air Survey Report referred to by the Deputy was forwarded to the Military Authorities on 28th March 2017 by the external assessor.

The monitoring found that none of the areas tested exceeded the Occupational Exposure Limits outlined in the 2016 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare (Chemical Agents) Regulations, 2001.

In line with the recommendations of the report, I am informed by the Military Authorities that;

1. All personnel working in the Technical Stores building were paraded and informed of the content of the report and its findings.

2. The report is currently available for viewing by all personnel at the Air Corps Health and Safety Office.

3. In due course the report will be published on the Defence Forces Intranet site.

It is good news that none of the tested areas of Main Technical Stores at Baldonnel have exceeded the Occupational Exposure Limits outlined in the 2016 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare (Chemical Agents) Regulations, 2001.

It is disappointing however that Minister Paul Kehoe has not shared any details for the Air Quality report including the exact locations tested nor the actual results.

If there is nothing to hide, please publish the report in full on the Department of Defence website.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 29/03/17 – Irish Army Air Corps – Workplace Chemical Exposure Review

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will establish a review to determine if the chronic illnesses suffered by former Air Corps staff were as a result of exposure to chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome. [15412/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

As I indicated in my responses to other recent Parliamentary Questions on this issue, a number of former and serving Air Corps personnel are suing the Minister for Defence alleging personal injuries arising from exposure to workplace chemicals. It is not appropriate for me to comment on this matter at this time as these cases are the subject of ongoing civil litigation before the High Court.

The Deputy will be aware that there are a number of processes already in train in relation to reviewing health and safety procedures in the Air Corps. Following a number of inspections at the Air Corps premises at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, in 2016, the Health and Safety Authority issued a report of inspection with a number of general improvements and recommendations for follow up. The Air Corps committed to addressing these recommendations as part of an eight phase implementation plan. I am advised that seven out of the eight phases are planned to be completed by May 2017.

In September 2016 I appointed an independent third party to review allegations made in a number of protected disclosures relating to health and safety issues in the Air Corps which were received in late 2015 and early 2016. Once a final review is to hand, I will determine any further steps required and ensure that all recommendations, whether arising from the work of the Health and Safety Authority or the ongoing protected disclosure review, will be acted upon to ensure the safety of the men and women of the Air Corps.

In the circumstances and pending the completion of the ongoing processes, I have no plans at this time to commission another review on this matter.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 21/03/17 – Irish Army Air Corps – Contaminated Clothing

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if technical personnel in the Army and Air Corps are permitted to bring home issue overalls and other uniform clothing that have been potentially contaminated with toxic chemicals; and if he and or the Defence Forces have considered the possible contamination risk that poses whereby these items of work clothing may come into contact with items in the home. [13272/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I am informed by the Military Authorities that disposable coveralls are provided to personnel if an activity involves risk of contamination from toxic chemicals. I am advised that these coveralls are disposed of, immediately after use, using a chemical waste contract.

I am also informed that the Defence Forces policy on personal protective equipment (PPE) states that “personnel shall be provided with the necessary training and information on the use of the PPE.” The policy makes it clear that personnel must use the personal protective equipment correctly and whenever it is required, they must participate in any training or instruction provided on the fitting, use and inspection of personal protective equipment and they must look after it and store it in a safe location.

The other whistleblowers: Looking at the human cost of the #IrishAirCorps chemical scandal

AN AIR CORPS whistle-blower who claims he was exposed to harmful chemicals whilst in the force believes there could be more than 1,000 people affected by what he has described as “a scandal of the highest order”.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie, the man – who we are not naming as he has made a protected disclosure – detailed the trouble he experiences with daily life which he alleges traces back to his exposure to chemicals over a nine-year period at Baldonnel Airfield in west Dublin.

A 2016 inspection by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) identified a number of shortcomings at Baldonnel with corrective actions then taken by the Defence Forces in relation to how it handles such chemicals.

According to the HSA report seen by TheJournal.ie, the Air Corps was warned it could face prosecution if it did not “comply with advice and relevant legal requirements” about how hazardous substances were managed, among other safety matters.

Read more on The Journal website

http://www.thejournal.ie/air-corps-whistleblower-3230614-Mar2017/

No probe of Irish Army Air Corps chemical exposure

The Government says it has no plans to establish a review to determine if the chronic illnesses suffered by former Air Corps staff were as a result of exposure to chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.

This is despite similar studies and investigations in Australia and the Netherlands.

The State is currently facing six legal actions from former Air Corps staff, who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by their working conditions at the military airfield in south-west Dublin.

Meanwhile, an official has been appointed to investigate claims by three whistleblowers, who made a number of allegations around the current health and safety measures within the Air Corps.

Last October, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) issued a report calling on the Air Corps to implement a number of improvements on the management of staff exposure to hazardous chemicals.

However, responding to a question from Sinn Féin defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh, junior defence minister Paul Kehoe said the Government did not intend to commission any specific study to investigate whether working conditions at Casement Aerodrome had an adverse effect on workers’ health.

“There are a number of processes already in train relating to reviewing health-and-safety procedures in the Air Corps,” said Mr Kehoe of the review of the whistleblowers’ claims and the Defence Forces’ response to the HSA report.

“In the circumstances and pending the completion of the ongoing processes, I have no plans to commission another review on this matter.”

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Irish Army Air Corps: Concerns over scope of review of allegations made by whistleblowers

Concerns have been raised about the scope of the ongoing review of allegations made by Air Corps whistle-blowers. They claimed that staff were unnecessarily exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

Last month, this newspaper revealed that the Health and Safety Authority threatened legal action against the Air Corps, unless it improved its management of technicians’ exposure to toxic substances.

The report came in October 2016, almost a year after three whistle-blowers made protected disclosures to the Government about Air Corps technicians’ exposure to harmful substances.

The Irish Examiner can now reveal that the independent third party appointed to review the protected disclosures, which were made between November 2015 and January 2016, has met with all three of the whistle-blowers.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Dutch Ministry of Defence pays out €2.1 million so far in Ex Gratia Chromium-6 Exposure Compensation Scheme.

So far the Ministry of Defense paid out more than 2.1 million euros to 309 employees and former employees who became ill after working with paint containing carcinogenic substance Chromium-6, a Defense spokesperson confirmed to NU.nl.

The Defense workers in question took advantage of a goodwill scheme the Ministry instituted two years ago for Chromium-6 victims. Employees and former employees who worked with the toxic paint for more than a year and are sick can claim between 3 thousand and 15 thousand from the scheme, without the Ministry of Defense acknowledging guilt for their illness. The compensation scheme will remain in place until public health institute RIVM finished its investigation into the risks and health effects of using Chromium-6.

According to the spokesperson, Defense employees from across the Netherlands applied to the scheme. The Ministry received a total of 719 applications, 255 of which were immediately approved. Another 54 were approved or partly approved after the employee objected.

The compensation scheme shall remain in force until the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) research into the risks and health effects of Chromium-6 has been completed

Read more on the NL Times website

http://nltimes.nl/2017/02/27/defense-pays-eu21-million-toxic-paint-victims

Military accused of Irish Army Air Corps cover-up on safety

The military has been accused of a “cover-up” in relation to how it dealt with reports of exposure to dangerous substances within the Air Corps.

The Government has also been accused of “major inconsistencies” in its account of how ministers managed the whistle-blowers warnings of health and safety issues in the Air Corps.

It comes after the Irish Examiner revealed details of a damning health-and-safety report on working conditions at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Speaking in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh alleged that military authorities at Casement Aerodrome “did not take the required steps” when it was highlighted to them that dangerous chemicals existed.

Questioning the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe on when he first became aware of the health and safety concerns, Mr Ó Snodaigh said that it appeared that “there is a cover-up here”.

“I have seen health and safety reports going back as far as 1995, all of which pointed specifically to the issues that were addressed in the Examiner newspaper and which a number of deputies in this house have been raising with you.

“So this is not a new issue, this is a cover up because the military authorities in Casement Aerodrome did not take the required steps when it was highlighted to them that dangerous chemicals existed they didn’t take those steps,” Mr Ó Snodaigh claimed.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Pressure mounts for Irish Army Air Corps inquiry

There is growing pressure on the Government to launch an independent inquiry into the exposure of members of the Air Corps to cancer-causing toxins at Casement Aerodrome. Six members are suing the State, claiming their health was adversely affected due to working with hazardous chemicals.

An investigation by the Irish Examiner also revealed the Health & Safety Authority threatened to prosecute the Air Corps in 2016 unless it implemented improvements in the management of employees’ exposure to hazardous chemicals. It found staff did not have access to basic equipment, such as gloves, goggles, and protective clothing.

Calling in the Dáil for separate investigations, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the revelations and lack of response as a “serious scandal”. He also accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Government of trying to “bury” the controversy.

Read more on Irish Examiner Website

Safety body had to threaten Irish Army Air Corps before safety measures implemented

The Irish Army Air Corps had to be threatened with prosecution before it implemented safety procedures on the handling of dangerous chemicals and solvents, four years after the issue was first highlighted, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed.

Read more on the Irish Times website