Former Defence Forces mechanic wins appeal over order halting damages claim

Court of Appeal overturns High Court finding over action time limits

A former aircraft mechanic with the Defence Forces has won his appeal against an order halting his damages action over injuries allegedly suffered as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals at work.

The Court of Appeal overturned a High Court finding that Ian Coughlan’s action was brought outside the applicable time limits and thus bound to fail.

The High Court relied on inadmissible evidence in coming to that finding, the three judge Court of Appeal held in its judgment on Wednesday.

The application to halt the case must now be reconsidered in line with the Court of Appeal’s findings.

 

Mr Justice Noonan said Mr Coughlan, both during and after his employment with the Defence Forces, attended a large number of doctors about his complaints. Mr Coughlan himself has long believed there was an association between his complaints and his working environment but says he was repeatedly assured by doctors he was wrong about this, the judge noted.

Mr Coughlan says it was only in November 2011, when he got a verbal opinion from a clinical toxico-pathologist, a Professor Howard, that he became aware of a causal link between his symptoms and his employment.

He claimed that was his date of knowledge for his cause of action and, because his proceedings were issued in 2013, they were within the two – year limit stipulated in the Statute of Limitations Act.

The defendants argued his date of knowledge long pre-dated the November 2011 opinion. They said he had seen a toxicologist, a Dr Wood, in London in 2008 and exhibited a January 2009 report by Dr Wood in arguing his claim was statute barred.

The judge found an objection by counsel for Mr Coughlan to the admissibility of the Wood report on hearsay grounds was “well-founded”. The Wood report had the same status as a document produced in the course of discovery, it does not prove itself and it was inadmissible as hearsay, he held.

Even if the report was properly admitted and properly proved, fair procedures required its contents should have been put to Mr Coughlan in cross-examination to give him a fair opportunity to deal with it, he also held.

Read full article on the Irish Times website below…

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It should be noted that in order to comply with a recent Supreme Court order in relation to a separate case the Irish Air Corps have until the 6th of April to provide a full list of toxic workplace chemicals they have withheld from former personnel. 

Delay – Deny – Die

Former Defence Forces mechanic wins appeal over order halting ‘chemicals’ damages claim

A former aircraft mechanic with the Defence Forces has won his appeal against an order halting his damages action over injuries allegedly suffered as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals at work.

The Court of Appeal overturned a High Court finding that Ian Coughlan’s action was brought outside the applicable time limits and thus bound to fail.

In proceedings against the Minister for Defence and the State, he alleges he was exposed to toxic chemicals used for degreasing aircraft parts, was not provided with proper protection against the effects of those and suffered personal injuries.

Among various claims, he alleges he suffered dizziness, skin rashes, nasal irritation, sores, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue and headaches, skin yellowness and bloody diarrhoea.

Mr Justice Noonan said Mr Coughlan, both during and after his employment with the Defence Forces, attended a large number of doctors about his complaints. Mr Coughlan himself has long believed there was an association between his complaints and his working environment but says he was repeatedly assured by doctors he was wrong about this, the judge noted.

Mr Coughlan says it was only in November 2011, when he got a verbal opinion from a clinical toxico-pathologist, a Professor Howard, he became aware of a causal link between his symptoms and his employment.

He claimed that was his date of knowledge for his cause of action and, because his proceedings were issued in 2013, they were within the two year limit stipulated in the Statute of Limitations Act.

The defendants argued his date of knowledge long pre-dated the November 2011 opinion. They said he had seen a toxicologist, a Dr Wood, in London in 2008 and exhibited a January 2009 report by Dr Wood in arguing his claim was statute barred.

Mr Coughlan said in an affidavit Dr Wood was “very much limited” in expressing an opinion as to any causal connection between his employment and his injuries because of a lack of information available to the doctor concerning the chemicals and solvents to which he had been exposed.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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It should be noted that in order to comply with a recent Supreme Court order in relation to a separate case the Irish Air Corps have until the 6th of April to provide a full list of toxic workplace chemicals they have withheld from former personnel. 

Delay – Deny – Die

Aerotoxic Syndrome : A new occupational disease?

Background

Concerns related to adverse health effects experienced by aircrew exposed to aircraft contaminated air have been ongoing for over 6 decades.

Unfiltered breathing air is supplied to the cabin via the engine compressor. The likelihood that oil leaking over the engine oil seals may enter the cabin air supply has prompted continuing debate about the hazards associated with exposure to neurotoxic substances and to the thermally degraded or pyrolysed mixture.

In this study, we undertook an in-depth investigation of aircrew involved in suspected aircraft contaminated air events.

Methods

Two studies were conducted to review the circumstances and symptoms of a cohort of aircrew working in the pressurized air environment of aircraft. A table of effects was then used for categorizing symptoms and reviewing other sources of data related to aircraft fluids and selected other conditions.

Results

Both acute and chronic exposures to neurotoxic and a wide range of thermally degraded substances were confirmed, along with a clear pattern of acute and chronic adverse effects. The latter were supported by medical findings and diagnoses, notably involving the neurological, neurobehavioural and respiratory systems.

Conclusion

A clear cause and effect relationship has been identified linking the symptoms, diagnoses and findings to the occupational environment. Recognition of this new occupational disorder and a clear medical investigation protocol are urgently needed.

Engine bearing oil leak on compressor blades in CFM56-7 engine on a Boeing 737. This oil leak was within acceptable manufacturer limits and this engine is still fully serviceable.
Yep we know the Irish Air Corps don’t have any 737 aircraft but this Boeing Aircraft Maintenance Manual shows engine bearing compressor oil leaks are routine and don’t necessarily cause the engine to become U/S.

Download scientific research paper from the World Health Organisation…

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  • This is of relevance for personnel who serve or have served in Air Corps aircraft with bleed air pressurisation systems.
  • This of relevance to personnel who worked closely with turbine engine oils
  • This of relevance to personnel who were tubbed with turbine engine oil.
  • This of relevance to personnel in Engineering Wing hangar who used air tools or respirators fed from the old ERF compressor.

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD reiterates call for formal investigation into chemical exposure on Air Corps personnel

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has today reiterated his call for the Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe to establish a formal investigation into the health effects of years of exposure to toxic chemicals on Irish Air Corps personnel

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of current and former members of the Irish Air Corps (both civilian & military) were exposed to a vast cocktail of highly dangerous workplace chemicals including carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants and immune sensitisers.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said;

“The failure of the Air Corps management to implement even the most basic chemical safety provisions possibly resulted in considerable physical and mental health injury to exposed personnel.


“The exposure to toxic chemicals for decades appears from figures collated by former Air Corps personnel to have contributed to a very high number of fatalities from a variety of rare and complex cancers, cardiovascular disease and suicides, and also high rates of miscarriage of partners.

“For 20 years, military authorities ignored recommendations from safety reports and only acted when their failure to act was highlighted by whistleblowers.

Read full press release on Sinn Féin website below…

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Please view the honourable & fair demands of
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors  here.
  • 77 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 64 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 40 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
  • 25 of these deaths have occured since the Minister for Defence was notified by Protected Disclosure in 2015
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • Approximately a third of deaths are from  cancer
  • Approximately a third of deaths are cardiac related
  • Approximately a fifth of deaths are from suicide (15)
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 50 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths or murder.

Delay – Deny – Die

Protestors encourage voters not to give Paul Kehoe any preference votes

Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe is being targeted by former members of the Defence Forces who are trying to encourage voters in the forthcoming General Election not to vote for him.

The former Fine Gael chief whip has been a Fine Gael TD for County Wexford since he was first elected to the Dáil in May 2002 and a Minister of State for Defence since 2016.

In the last election, he secured a seat in the Dáil by beating his nearest rival Sinn Féin’s Johnny Mythen by just 52 votes.

Protestors are targeting his constituency offices and those of his party colleagues Michael D’Arcy.

They want to encourage people not to give Deputy Kehoe any preference votes, which helped get him elected the last time round.

The protesters are former members of the Air Corps who belong to the Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors (ACCAS) who claim they suffer illnesses due to their exposure to toxic chemicals while working for the Air Corps.

According to the group, Minister Kehoe has done little or nothing to help them get the medical support and health screening services they want.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Please view the honourable & fair demands of
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors
 here.

Delay – Deny – Die

Kehoe won’t say when Air Corps respirator training began

The junior defence minister has refused to say when Air Corps technicians were first trained to use respirators for working with toxic chemicals.

Technicians’ exposure to harmful substances in the line of duty is “a cause of significant concern”, according to Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who submitted queries on the use of respirators, and protected disclosures, to minister of state Paul Kehoe.

Ms Murphy had asked Mr Kehoe the date on which it became policy and standard practice to train or up-skill new and existing members of the Defence Forces, as part of basic training, in the use of respiratory protective equipment.

Mr Kehoe said he was advised that the question appeared “to involve matters which are raised in the proceedings currently before the courts”.

“The deputy will appreciate that, as the questions appear to encroach into on-going litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further,” Mr Kehoe said.

Ms Murphy said she was disappointed with Mr Kehoe’s response, and that a lack of transparency only causes mistrust.

“I don’t know why he isn’t more forthcoming with the information. It will be revealed in the court cases anyway,” she told the Irish Examiner.

“I am trying to get information to build a picture here, because what I can see, so far, is a cause of significant concern, to put it mildly.”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical List Updated

We are curently updating our chemical listings. There were and are a very large number of chemical substances in use in the Irish Air Corps and amost all of these substances have ingredient chemicals.

For example, the corrosion inhibiter Mastinox 6856k, which many personnel used without any PPE,  contains the below constituent chemicals. Among the ingredients include carcinogens, mutagens, immune sensitisers, irritants and just plain old toxic chemicals.

  • Strontium Chromate
  • Barium Chromate
  • Xylene
  • Toluene
  • Ethylbenzene

By following the links below you will arrive at tables showing the individual chemical names that we have extracted from some MSDS. Due to a recent Supreme Court ruling the list of chemicals is expected to grow. It is our intention to eventually create a database that links the MSDS to the individual constituents.

Bear the following in mind when using the table.
  • You can limit the number of entries you want to see
  • You can search for names such as “Tolouene” or “chromate”
  • You can sort by name, carcinogen, mutagen, reprotoxic etc.
  • Clicking on the name will take you to the Wikipedia page for that chemical
  • Clicking on the ECHA link for a chemical will take you to the European Chemicals Agency where you can look at the hazards in detail and view CAS number etc.
  • The tables do SCROLL sideways, the scroll bar is at the bottom of each table.

Chemicals – Aircraft Maintenance

Chemicals – Photo Section

Delay – Deny – Die

Court rules against State ahead of ex-Air Corps mechanic’s case alleging exposure to dangerous chemicals

The State must disclose a range of documents to a former aircraft mechanic in the Air Corps who is suing it over his alleged exposure on dates during the 1990s to dangerous chemicals, the Supreme Court has ruled.

He is among several former mechanics suing over alleged exposure to dangerous chemicals and solvents during their employment.

Today, a five-judge Supreme Court gave a unanimous judgment overturning a Court of Appeal (COA) decision that Mr Tobin’s discovery application was premature.

The State denies he suffered the alleged injuries, requires him to fully prove his claims about exposure to dangerous chemicals and solvents and has also pleaded contributory negligence on his part.

In this case, no concessions of fact were made by the State defendants with the effect Mr Tobin must establish all matters relevant to his claim, he said. Had a “more nuanced” approach being taken by the defence, the discovery sought would have been reduced.

Context

In October 2016 the High Court granted Mr Tobin an order for discovery of the chemicals he used while working at Casement Aerodrome from 1989 to 1999. He had argued that he would need a full list of the chemicals he was asked to use during his time in the Air Corps in order to make his case against the State.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott granted the discovery order in the High Court and said that “the quantities and dates of purchase and use of chemicals and mixtures and the safety data concerning their handling, application and use form a highly relevant and important part of the case”.

He further ruled that Mr Tobin “will suffer serious disadvantage in the preparation and presentation of his case if the relevant records sought under these categories are not made the subject of a discovery order”.

Today’s Supreme Court judgement was referenced in advance at a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.On July 4 last, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy raised the Air Corps cases with SCA director, Ciarán Breen who said the Supreme Court ruling in the Tobin case would have implications for others to follow.

“One is in the court of appeal, and I think has been given a date for the year after next because there’s a glut of appeals in the Court of Appeal, and others are awaiting an important decision by the Supreme Court on a discovery issue,” Mr Breen had said of the status of the eight cases.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Abnormal number die early in Irish Air Corps

The Air Corps “seems to be a place where there’s an abnormal number of people who die prematurely”, according to a member of the Oireachtas’ Public Account Committee.

Social Democrats TD, Catherine Murphy, made the remark as the State Claims Agency confirmed to the PAC that there are eight cases being taken against the State regarding chemical exposure at the Air Corps.

Today officials from the State Claims Agency, which is handling the lawsuits against the State, appeared before the PAC. Ms Murphy raised the list during the PAC meeting, and said it showcases an “extraordinary age profile of people who have died in the Air Corps”.

“The Air Corps is not a big employer, and there’s 72 deaths, all pre-retirement, some very young. Now, a large core of the 72, about 14 or 15, are by suicide, but others are in particular categories, like cancers and cardiacs. It seems to be a place where there are an abnormal number of people who die prematurely, and that would have jumped out to me as something that would make me question that there was a risk,” she said.

Ms Murphy also raised a reply she received from Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe which revealed the SCA had carried out annual health and safety audits at Casement Aerodrome.

SCA director, Ciarán Breen, said the cases against the State date from 1972-2007, and that the SCA began its audits in 2006: “In 2007, the particular workshop which is associated with the alleged exposure was changed to a state-of-the-art facility. At no time, during those audits and reviews, was anything specifically brought to our attention about the historical exposure, if there was one that might have been there, and how that was handled.”

However, Ms Murphy also highlighted how many of these annual SCA audits were carried out in the years before the Health and Safety Authority investigation and its adverse findings. “It’s my understanding that they did threaten live legal action,” she said of the HSA investigation.

“It seems extraordinary that you have one arm of the State that may be doing that and another giving a clean bill of health in terms of risk. That just doesn’t, for me, stack up in terms of mitigating risk into the future,” she said

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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The State Claims Agency have been carrying out Health & Safety Management System audits since 2006.

The Health & Safety Authority threatened legal action against the Irish Air Corps a decade later in 2016 if they did not comply with their instructions to improve chemical Health & Safety at Baldonnel. The instructions covered basic Health & Safety requirements that were mandatory since the SAFETY, HEALTH AND WELFARE AT WORK ACT, 1989. 

The questions must be asked, what was the purpose of the decade of State Claims Agency audits from 2006 to 2016 and what did they achieve in terms of improving the health & safety and risk profile of the Air Corps over those years? 

It should be noted that the problems with chemical exposure were spread across the entirety of Casement Aerodrome. Again the State Claims Agency are attempting to reduce the exposure problems at Baldonnel to ERF and this is simply NOT the case. 

Exposure issues existed in Avionics, Engine Shop, Machine Shop, NDT Workshop, Spray Paint Shop, Hydraulic Shop, Sheet Metal Shop, Carpentry Shop, Light Strike, BFTS, Heli, Refuelers, Transport, Fire Crew, Photo Section, Air Sup Coy Signals, Apprentice school, Main Block, Main Tech Stores and even the Training Depot was affected.

Delay – Deny – Die

Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe “doesn’t give a damn” about Air Corps personnel health, claims whistleblower

Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe “doesn’t give a damn” about Air Corps personnel health, claims whistle blower

A whistle-blower claims the Junior Minister for Defence “doesn’t give a damn” about the health and well-being of Air Corps personnel, two years on from the issuing of a report into his disclosures.

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe this week confirmed that it was in June 2017 when he first received a report of an independent reviewer who investigated allegations into claims that Air Corps technicians were unduly exposed to dangerous chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.

The whistle-blower has expressed his frustration at the delay in responding to his complaints and claims that 22 men have died since concerns were first raised in 2015. He believes these deaths can be linked to the men’s exposures to chemicals.

“Some of these men could have been saved but Minister Kehoe chose to do nothing,” the whistle-blower said.

“Minister Kehoe is constantly at pains to point out how safety, health and well-being of Air Corps personnel are of primary concern but his lack of action shows he doesn’t give a damn. Furthermore he has never said he has any concern for the health and well-being of former Air Corps personnel which is telling,” he said.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…