Report queried Air Corps safety efforts

A 2014 internal Air Corps report into staff exposure to a cancer-causing cleaning agent over a 27-year period has cast doubt on whether the force did all in its power to protect workers’ health.

The document states it is possible staff may have ingested the chemical and suffered other exposures because there was no record that protective measures were in place to mitigate the impact of the toxic solvent.

The time under review in the report — 1980 to 2007 — coincides with the period during which a number of Air Corps staff who are suing the State would have worked at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

It is understood the document was prepared for the State Claims Agency, who is defending the case in the High Court.

The report, seen by the Irish Examiner, investigates the working environment in a since-demolished engine workshop building and was published over two-and-a-half years before the Health and Safety Authority raised a number of concerns about conditions in Baldonnel.

In its summary on precautions taken with the Triklone N solvent, the report issued by the Air Corps’ Formation Safety Office asks “can the Defence Forces be found not to have done everything reasonably practicable?”.

Triklone N contains trichloroethylene, a known carcinogen, and is a vapour degreaser that was used to clean engine parts. The report stated that:

  • No records show that personal protective equipment (PPE) was made available to staff.
  • No records exist suggesting that any training on the dangers of using Triklone N took place.
  • Work areas were not segregated and doors to adjoining areas were left open.
  • Workers’ tea room and meeting area were located in an adjoining area, raising the risk of food being contaminated.
  • Workers clothes could have been contaminated as personnel lockers were located in the immediate area where the chemical was used.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website.

Call for healthcare screening for Defence Forces members

Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to establish healthcare screening for members of the Defence Forces, as well as a health package for those who have suffered illnesses as a result of their exposures while working for the State.

The demand comes as it was confirmed Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has written to Sinn Féin to confirm that military authorities cannot find inspection reports from the 1990s that raised concerns about the working environment at the Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome.

The confirmation came following attempts by this newspaper to have the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The State is defending itself in a number of legal actions brought against it by Air Corps staff who say they are suffering illnesses as a result of their exposure to chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.

Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers was critical of the Government’s approach to the matter.

“It is quite astonishing that the Department of Defence cannot locate these reports given I and others have seen copies of same,” Ms Chambers said.

“Simply saying they cannot be located is not good enough, there needs to be some explanation provided as to how these reports could have conveniently disappeared, given they point to serious health and safety issues at Casement Aerodrome dating back to the early 90s.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website.

Air Corps whistleblower meets minister over claims

Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has met an Air Corps whistle-blower and saw copies of inspection reports that have raised concerns about conditions in Casement Aerodrome dating back to the 1990s.

Click on above photo to learn about the chemicals therein

The Irish Examiner understands one of four Air Corps whistle-blowers met with Mr Kehoe last week, and showed him copies of documents that have prompted allegations in the Dáil of a ‘cover up’ in the force.

This newspaper revealed yesterday that the Department of Defence refused a Freedom of Information request from the Irish Examiner for the release of the reports on the grounds that it “cannot locate” the documents sought.

Opposition TDs, who also saw the documents, say they raised concerns about Air Corps members’ exposure to toxic chemicals over 20 years ago. The State is defending High Court cases taken by former Air Corps staff who say that they suffer chronic illnesses as a result of working conditions in Casement Aerodrome.

Last October, the Health and Safety Authority threatened the Air Corps with legal action unless it addressed shortcomings that the HSA had identified.

Whistle blowers had previously warned the Government of the dangers. Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh previously told the Dáil that the reports have been covered-up because of the failure of the Defence Forces to implement the changes that were recommended.

Yesterday he said that both Mr Kehoe and the Department of Defence need to explain why the documents cannot be located.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website.

Casement Aerodrome technical reports “cannot be located”

The Department of Defence said it cannot locate copies of technical reports from the 1990s which raise concerns about health and safety conditions at the Air Corps headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

It comes after opposition TDs made claims of a “cover-up” and suggested the files may have been destroyed.

The Irish Examiner, in January last, revealed the State is being sued by six former Air Corps staff who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.

We also reported how, last October, the Health and Safety Authority issued a warning to the Air Corps over its management of staff exposure and wellbeing, following protected disclosures from three whistleblowers.

Sinn Féin defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh told the Dáil, in February, he had “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”.

“So this is not a new issue,” he stated at the time.

“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.”

Read more on the Irish Examiner website here.