Irish Air Corps members allege they were penalised for whistleblowing by loss of retirement ceremony

Failure to invite soldier back for unit presentation is ‘biggest slap in the face’, says airman

Unfortunate “Daft Dave” runs scared after tripping up multiple times…

It has been alleged to the Workplace Relations Commission that around half a dozen Air Corps service members were not afforded a retirement ceremony when they left the service as an act of penalisation for turning whistleblower. The claim was aired after the State failed in a bid to have the press excluded from a whistleblower protection claim against the Department of Defence earlier on Wednesday.

An Air Corps commandant gave evidence that the sort of “unit presentation” complained about would be organised primarily by colleagues and peers, and that there was “no responsibility on anyone” to arrange a retirement party.

Former airman Patrick Gorman claims he was penalised in breach of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 on the grounds that he was not invited back to his former unit to receive a presentation marking his retirement because he made protected disclosures a number of years earlier. His representative, Niall Donohue, told the Workplace Relations Commission on Wednesday that up to six former members of the No 4 Support Wing of the Air Corps, based at Baldonnel Aerodrome, “all got the same treatment” after making protected disclosures, and were prepared to come and testify in support of his claim.

Mr Guidera, appearing instructed by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, had sought a hearing “in camera” in a motion resisted by the complainant’s representative Mr Donohue.

“This is strictly in the public interest. The facts, if heard, will be greatly appreciated by the public,” Mr Gorman said.

“The biggest slap in the face you could give a soldier who’d served 35 years in the Defence Forces would be to not invite him back for a unit presentation,” Mr Gorman told the tribunal.

Mr Donohue said the alleged denial of a retirement ceremony to the veteran “undermined his reputation in the community of the Defence Forces. Why was this done to him? The answer is it was done to him because he put in his protected disclosure.”

There was legal argument over the interpretation of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 as it applied to a member of the Defence Forces.

Mr Guidera contended Defence Forces personnel only have the status of a “worker” as defined in the legislation – leaving them without the protections afforded to an “employee” in the Act.

Mr Donohue argued that the words “worker” and “employee” in the whistleblower protection law were “interchangeable”.

The adjudicator said he would adjourn the hearing to consider preliminary arguments on the admissibility of the claim, adding that he would decide at that stage whether to call a senior officer as sought by the complainant.

Read full article by Stephen Bourke on the Irish Times website…

https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/courts/2024/02/21/air-corps-members-allege-they-were-penalised-for-whistleblowing-by-loss-of-retirement-ceremony/

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Delay – Deny – Die

“I started standing up for myself and the higher ranks came right back at me”

Former army member Alan Nolan voiced his concerns over policy and treatment in the Defence Forces, but instead of being listened to at the time, he was ‘screamed at, shouted at, sworn at’
Alan Nolan, ex-defence forces relaxing at home tying fishing flies. He spoke to reporter Neil Michael. Pic: Larry Cummins

Alan, a former Company Sergeant who left the army in 2017, says his own life was made a misery early on in his career after he tried to have his record cleared of a false report lodged on his military file.

He was reprimanded for being late for work at Collins Barracks in Cork in 1996 the morning after he had spent all night in Cork University Hospital’s emergency department with his young daughter.

Alan disputed the way the matter had been handled and eventually a very senior officer came up with the idea of having the reprimand taken off his military file.

But he later found out it hadn’t been removed and then when he took the matter to the internal Defence Forces Redress of Wrongs process, which is supposed to deal with soldiers’ complaints, he endured “more hell”.

So, by the time he put in a Protected Disclosure in 2017 about deficiencies in the way private medical data is handled in the Defence Forces in addition to other serious wrongdoings, he had given up all hope for any chance of fair treatment in the army.

Painful punishment

However, when he was in the army and working in the Central Medical Unit when the records system was brought in, nobody wanted to talk to him.

He says this attitude was always there, right from the very start of his career.

“I was screamed at, shouted at, sworn at and basically told that I had ‘fucked myself’ and my career by complaining about the way I had been treated in 1996, and on multiple other occasions,” he said.

“They never let me forget it and that culture still exists today.” He fears many other soldiers may also have similar issues in their careers. “You are pulled up out of the blue for no reason. This is especially the case if you dare to stick your head above the army parapet.

“I was always one of those people who believed in and tried to live by Defence Forces values.”

According to the website, these include integrity and the fact that each soldier should be “truthful, reliable and honourable”. Respect is another one, and the fact that each soldier “must treat comrades with dignity, respect, tolerance, and understanding”. Alan said:

I ascribed to all those values but the one I really liked was the Defence Forces’ value for so-called ‘moral courage’. This dictates that you must do what you know is right, not what is easier or popular.

“How wrong I and so many others have been over the years to think about doing what we know to be right when the reality is you will be severely punished for doing just that.

Read full article by Neil Michael on Irish Examiner website…

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/spotlight/arid-41284891.html

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“It stops now” indeed…

Delay – Deny – Die

Soldier who blew whistle on bullying left to man phone that never rings #IrishAirCorps

Soldier F made protected disclosures about bullying and victimisation in the Defence Forces that led to a Government-initiated inquiry. So why is he stuck doing a barely menial task in an office?
‘When you hear the army saying there is no more victimisation, or they are doing everything they can to stamp it out, all they need to do is pop along to the office with the phone that doesn’t ring.’

In the air corps’ Baldonnel air base, there is a little-used office filled with filing cabinets.

Every day Soldier F, who cannot be named or quoted because he is a serving soldier, comes into the office, takes his jacket off, sits down, and waits for the phone to ring.

However, not only does the phone never ring, but, according to a close friend of his, even if it did, nobody would hear his voice because the phone doesn’t work properly.

He knows this because the few times the phone has rung, he has picked it up and the person at the end of the line keeps asking if anybody is there.

It’s hard to fathom that the Defence Forces would pay an experienced soldier, once tasked with commanding men in Lebanon, to answer a phone that never rings. According to his friend, he believes it is because he has stood up for himself and others who were bullied and victimised in the Defence Forces.

He has lodged a number of protected disclosures about mistreatment, assaults, and victimisation.

It was Soldier F’s evidence that led to a Government-initiated inquiry into the Defence Forces Cadet School.

This inquiry predated the Women of Honour expose by just over a year and was one of a raft of reports pointing to a culture of overt misogyny among Defence Forces officers.

His evidence led Government-appointed barrister Frances Meenan, who headed that inquiry, to remark that Defence Forces policies in relation to employment equality, and bullying at work need “major reconsideration and redrafting”.

This was, said Meenan, because “they are not fit for purpose in the modern era of employment”.

The last engagement Soldier F had with any State-initiated investigation into irregularities in the Defence Forces was the recent Independent Review Group panel probe that was set up after RTÉ’s Women of Honour programme.

While panel members were shocked at much of what Soldier F had to say to them behind closed doors, he is, according to his friend, another one of the many who gave evidence who now feel cold-shouldered by the State.

Read full article by Neil Michael on Irish Examiner website…

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/spotlight/arid-41280913.html

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This article shows the type of mistreatment that personnel who highlight wrongdoing in the Irish Air Corps are are subjected to. Time after time they are marked out for humiliation & bullying until they leave the service.

The Air Corps can act with impunity in cases like this because, firstly, unlike civilian workplaces, they are exempt from constructive dismissal legislation and secondly, because a succession of Ministers for Defence, including Micheál Martin, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar & Paul Kehoe have shown that they have been more than happy to look the other way & allow such bullying behaviour to continue unchecked.

“It stops now” indeed…

Delay – Deny – Die

Martin accused of turning back on Air Corps toxic chemical exposure victims

Defence Minister Micheál Martin has been accused of turning his back on survivors of toxic chemical exposure while serving in the Air Corps.

They say they have asked for direct engagement with him before agreement on the format of a statutory inquiry related to Defence Forces abuse allegations is reached.

Mr Martin has been holding meetings with representatives of serving and former Defence Forces personnel.

Those not invited to such meetings are instead emailed what the Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors (ACCAS) describe as round-robin and impersonal “Dear Stakeholder” updates by civil servants.

One of the latest face-to-face meetings with Mr Martin was last Thursday and it was with the Women of Honour group.

They featured in RTE’s Katie Hannon’s expose in 2021, which led to the launch of the Independent Review Group investigation into allegations of sexual abuses in the Defence Forces.

The review group’s report in March included allegations of both male and female soldiers being raped, sexually assaulted, and bullied.

However, while the Women of Honour did not give evidence to the review group, ACCAS did.

The extent of abuse they allege they suffered was so extensive the report recommended their allegations should feature in a statutory investigation.

A photo of the Irish Air Corps NDT Shop taken in 2007

Like members of Women of Honour, a number of ACCAS members are also suing over abuse they allege they endured.

The ACCAS say the Defence Minister’s failure to engage with them contrasts with a meeting he had with them in June 2017 when he vowed to support their cause “because it is the right thing to do”

Read full article by Neil Michael on Irish Examiner website…https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-41181115.html

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34 men and 1 woman have died prematurely since Martin stood up in the Dáil and called for a public inquiry into the Air Corps toxic chemical exposure scandal on the 1st of February 2017.

Some of these serving & former personnel could have been saved by awareness campaigns and risk specific medical interventions, since he gained power Martin has chose to let suffere & die unnecessarily. 

Martin has failed to respond to requests for meetings with survivors since he came to power despite precedent where previous Minister’s for Defence such as Simon Coveney & Paul Kehoe met with the same personnel. 

Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence and the defence forces continue to try to downplay.

Delay – Deny – Die

Secret files reveal Boeing doctor warned of toxic risks, birth defects

In 1980, a doctor wrote factory chemicals would cause “life-long chronic illness, cancer and death.” Lawsuits claim his worst fears came true.

Editor’s note: This is part of ongoing coverage examining the dangers of chemical exposure to Boeing workers in the Puget Sound region, including the Everett plant. According to records obtained exclusively by The Daily Herald, the aerospace company knew for decades — since at least 1980 — that toxins used in its factories posed risks not just to employees, but to their unborn children, too.

EVERETT — On March 18, 1980, one of Boeing’s top doctors made “a rather disastrous attempt” to alert company leadership to a problem that could be fatal.

“During the ‘routine and usual’ course of their employment,” tens of thousands of Boeing workers in the Puget Sound region were being exposed to “probably hazardous” and “certainly uncontrolled” amounts of toxic chemical mixtures, Dr. Barry Dunphy warned in a presentation to the company’s president.

Dunphy scrawled in handwritten slides, using a series of ellipses and line breaks:

“This ……

“….. was not known to be true in previous decades.

“….. is presently occurring without anyone’s real knowledge or consent.

“….. may result in future ‘outbreaks’ of serious illness — including sterility, fetal abnormalities, stillbirth, life-long chronic illness, cancer and death.”

As Boeing’s occupational health manager, Dunphy recommended protecting employees with uniform chemical labeling, medical monitoring, special training and other measures. This could be done, he advised, by building a stronger “industrial hygiene” program within Boeing’s medical department.

His pitch failed.

The doctor later noted, in a tone of defeat, that Boeing President Malcolm Stamper “did not appear at all sympathetic or indeed faintly happy” about having “this organizational problem brought to his attention.” Dunphy’s notes and slides are among scores of internal company documents, now the subject of depositions, in a series of lawsuits that claim his fears came true.

Three families allege Boeing failed to protect its employees from industrial poisons when parents worked in its factories, leading to the birth defects in their children.

The cases span 40 years, involving two fathers employed at the Boeing Everett plant and one mother employed at a Seattle-area factory that has since been shuttered.

Revelations in the cases offer a window into forewarnings that echoed for decades at the highest echelons of one of the world’s largest aerospace companies — and chemical dangers still present at the Everett plant today.

The storm that lies ahead

Dunphy’s warning is one of the earliest internal documents showing some company experts have long suspected the toxins used on its manufacturing floors pose risks not just to workers, but their unborn children, too.

Late last month, the company and Riley reached an out-of-court settlement, according to a joint motion filed in King County Superior Court on Nov. 7. The amount was not disclosed. According to the motion, settlement discussions are still ongoing in the other two lawsuits, filed in 2018.

Boeing, represented by Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie, has denied that the plaintiffs’ birth defects were caused by chemical exposure and maintains that it has taken adequate steps to protect its employees, according to court filings.

Boeing spokesperson Jessica Kowal said the company does not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy.

In depositions and court filings, the company has maintained there’s mixed scientific evidence on the connection, and that it’s dependent on the chemical, the manner of exposure and the dose.

The company and the plaintiffs exchanged hundreds of thousands of pages of documents in the discovery phase, alongside more than 30 depositions, according to the notice filed Monday in King County Superior Court.

The Herald obtained transcripts from eight depositions of former and current Boeing employees, including more than a hundred exhibits of internal memos, scientific literature and other company documents.

The plaintiff’s lead attorneys, who specialize in birth defect litigation, attribute the children’s “catastrophic” injuries to a “perfect storm” of toxins from two chemical classes.

Some are heavy metals: cadmium, lead and chromium.

Others are organic solvents, such as toluene, xylene, petroleum distillates, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), methyl propyl keytone (MPK), and trichloroethylene (TCE).

Some chemicals identified in the lawsuits are still used at the Everett plant. One of them is hexavalent chromium, also called Chromium VI, a long-established poison that Boeing’s own scientists have labeled as the No. 1 chemical of concern, according to the depositions.

It’s the same chemical to blame for the groundwater contamination in Hinkley, California, as dramatized in the film “Erin Brockovich.”

Given the range of factors that can cause reproductive issues, it is difficult to determine whether a child’s birth defect is due to the mother or father being exposed to chemicals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s even harder to pinpoint a specific industrial chemical, given that many of them haven’t been studied for reproductive effects, and industrial workers are usually exposed to a mixture.

Some chemicals in use at Boeing’s plants have been labeled as “reproductive hazards” — sometimes signified by an icon with the gender symbols that can also represent Mars and Venus. But the plaintiffs’ attorneys argue the disclaimer is obscured in the fine print, and the company never adequately explained that term to its workers.

The three plaintiffs’ families had never considered chemical exposure could be a cause of their children’s conditions — until 2016, when the law firm Waters Kraus & Paul ran a radio ad in the Seattle area, seeking workers in the electronics and aerospace industries who had children with birth defects.

“I strongly suspect that there are many other children of Boeing employees who have lived their lives with birth defects,” said lead plaintiff’s attorney Michael Connett, “without knowing that their conditions were caused by the chemicals that their parents were working with at Boeing.”

“It’s really not a question of if,” said Connett, a partner at Waters Kraus & Paul, in an August interview. “It’s a question of how many.”

The plaintiffs have undergone genetic testing and consulted geneticists to interpret the meaning of the tests, Connett said. Other expert witnesses for the plaintiffs include medical doctors, neuropsychologists and an industrial hygienist, a type of specialist that analyzes workplace hazards.

Workers are still at risk, Connett contended, because of Boeing’s failures to communicate the hazards and adequately enforce safety rules. And while working-class mechanics might be willing to roll the dice on their own health, Connett said, the stakes would seem higher if they knew “it’s not just risks to yourselves, it’s risks to your children.”

In his pitch to Stamper over 40 years ago, Dunphy estimated 30,000 employees were “potentially exposed” to “toxic chemical mixtures” and marked about 5 percent of them, or 1,500 people a year, as the “fraction seriously damaged.”

“The bottom line….,” Dunphy typed in an outline of the 1980 presentation, punctuated with irregular ellipses in the text: “Before long we’re going to get screwed because we’ve got an impotent occupational health program …. blind ‘seat of the pants fling (sic) isn’t going to get us through the storm that lies ahead … we need the ‘radar’ of an effective Industrial Hygiene program.”

The other alternatives weren’t good, Dunphy wrote. Among them:

“a) Continue to ignore the problem … ‘hope for the best.’”

“b) ‘play dumb’ ….eliminate hygiene (& Medicine) completely….destroy existing command media dealing with the subject…”

He presented his recommendation to Stamper alongside another doctor, Boeing’s medical director and the general manager of the company’s Seattle services division Art Carter, according to the notes.

“I suspect that this effort will be abandoned indefinitely,” Dunphy wrote afterwards, “…probably permanently….although GM still seems to believe that the concept is a good one…”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Uncontrolled exposures

When Marie Riley was in the womb, her mother Deborah Ulrich worked at Boeing’s Electronics Manufacturing Facility, which once stood on the east side of Boeing Field, also known as King County International Airport.

In the 1980s, it was discovered that groundwater beneath the site was tainted with TCE and other toxic compounds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the cleanup.

The plume of contamination extends about a half-mile from where the facility, known as the EMF, was located, under another Boeing plant cleanup site and into the Lower Duwamish Waterway, a federal Superfund site.

Long before the EMF’s demolition in the 1990s, it was a grimy workplace, Connett said.

Fumes drifted from the manufacturing area, where tank lines pumped chemical baths. A degreasing machine heated chemical solvents, giving rise to hot vapors that would clean circuit boards. Chromic acid, a type of hexavalent chromium, was used as an etching agent to carve out circuit boards, he said.

Ulrich was a “floater” who did many tasks. She used the degreaser, cooked light-sensitive film onto copper panels, touched up the patterns on circuit panels with a pen that applied black ink. She cleaned soldered boards by dipping them in industrial solvents, Connett said.

In 1979, about a year before Ulrich became pregnant, Dunphy warned company leadership that Boeing had “no formal training programs in safety and health aspects of hazardous materials, except in radiation health protection.”

In a memo to corporate leadership, he also said that “uncontrolled exposures of employees to hazardous materials is occurring” and “required medical surveillance and examinations are not being conducted.”

The following year, in his failed presentation to Stamper, the doctor warned that “occupational illness among employees is increasingly apparent” and “deviation from legal requirements is increasing.”

Dunphy writes in verbose jargon, but the urgency is apparent.

“What were formerly considered to be ‘insignificantly small concentrations’ of physical and chemical agents in the environment,” he wrote in the presentation, “are now believed to interact over relatively long periods of time with a variable number of poorly defined ‘intrinsic factors’ to adversely effect the reproductive process, and to accentuate chronic (so called ‘degenerative’) disease processes such as cancer.”

“The well documented effects of asbestos, benzene, aniline dyes, and vinyl chloride are current examples,” Dunphy wrote. “Most chromium and nickel compounds, lead, virtually all of our chlorinated organic solvents, and most of our resin systems are under strong indictment by the National Cancer Institute at the present time.”

Michael Krause, who worked for Boeing from 1978 to 1980 as an industrial hygienist, acknowledged “there were issues” with employee chemical exposure. But in a January deposition, he questioned Dunphy’s dire portrayal.

“I think I would just take issue with the implication that — that everything was crazy and uncontrolled and people are sloshing around in chemicals all over the company,” Krause testified. “That wasn’t true.”

Mixed evidence

Boeing’s occupational health and safety program began to take shape in the decade after Congress passed the landmark Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Company policy created in 1974 required “programs, standards, regulations, and practices for the mutual benefit of employees and the corporation as regards health, safety and accident prevention.”

The following year, the company developed standard cautionary labels for hazardous chemicals, in line with guidance from the newly created National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, according to a court filing by the company.

Warnings included information — “to the extent known at the time” — about whether a chemical caused cancer, genetic mutations, birth defects or other health issues, the company said in the court filing.

Those warnings appeared on federally required safety data sheets for each chemical, available to employees in binders placed throughout the EMF and other factories, the filing says. Boeing also maintains there were safety notices posted around the plant, and workers received “on-the-job” training about chemical hazards.

Those programs have improved over the years, Krause testified, as science on chemical hazards advanced and the company developed a formal “hazard communication” program.

“It’s obvious that new information came out about a lot of different kinds of chemicals over the years, and permissible limits were lowered,” Krause said. “… There was new scientific knowledge all the time, and we tried to react to that.”

In August, when Boeing Senior Toxicologist Brittany Weldon was deposed to speak on the company’s behalf, she acknowledged Boeing’s medical professionals “were of the opinion by 1980 that some chemicals in Boeing’s workplace could potentially cause stillbirths, fetal abnormalities, and infertility, through some exposure routes at certain concentrations or doses for some chemicals in some people.”

As she explained, the impact of a given chemical depends on whether it’s inhaled, ingested or absorbed through skin contact. The body’s process for taking in and metabolizing that chemical varies accordingly.

As early as the 1970s, Boeing had books in its toxicology library that said some organic solvents “were implicated” as causes of birth defects, according to Weldon’s deposition.

The literature references various chemical risks to both a fetus in the womb and to men who can pass harm onto their offspring through what’s known as “male-mediated developmental toxicity.”

“It is likely that solvents affect male fertility and semen quality,” says one of the toxicology library’s books, entitled “Reproductive Health Hazards in the Workplace,” originally published in 1985.

In her deposition, Weldon noted that organic solvents “are a very broad class of chemicals.”

“Not all organic solvents can cause reproductive or developmental toxicity, and I can’t say for certain exactly when Boeing became aware that some solvents can have those effects,” she testified.

“I would add the caveat that they haven’t been specifically linked at Boeing,” she testified. “They have been specifically linked in the scientific literature in animals and animal studies, and that there is mixed evidence.”

Boeing’s attorneys have cited a 1979 memo from a pregnant graphic artist as evidence that the company historically “accommodated requests by employees to be placed on a medical restriction and to be transferred to a different workspace area during pregnancy.”

In the memo written by the Seattle-area employee, she reported she experienced headaches, respiratory irritation and eye irritation while spending hours a day in a poorly ventilated room near a printer that was a source of TCE fumes.

When the employee questioned Dr. Dunphy about the risk, he “stated that there was no 100% sure way of protecting ourselves from the Trichloroethylene fumes,” she relayed in the memo, addressed to management. So he put her on “medical restriction” and moved her away from the source of the fumes, according to her memo.

“I was particularly interested,” the employee wrote, “in obtaining protection for those artists, myself included, who were planning a family in the near future.”

‘Chemicals of concern’

For decades, Boeing has maintained a list of “chemicals of concern” for “reproductive toxicity,” the depositions show. This inventory lists industrial chemicals linked to birth defects via human studies, animal studies or both.

The evolving list is one of many pieces of evidence, discussed in the depositions, that illustrate the company has been tracking and analyzing such risks for years.

In 1986, a company epidemiologist compiled a list of chemicals “reportedly associated with adverse reproductive effects in occupationally exposed men or women.” Among them were cadmium, lead, benzene, toluene, xylene and other solvents.

As of 1993, the list contained information about specific effects of such chemicals, and the extent to which scientific literature confirmed the link.

Cadmium and cadmium compounds, for example, made the 1993 list as hazardous to both the male and female reproductive systems, based on sufficient data from animal studies and limited data from human studies. “Growth retardation, birth defects, functional deficits, infertility and breast milk contamination” were identified as “specific effects” of cadmium.

Various iterations of the Boeing physicians’ guide also reference the reproductive risks of organic solvents and other chemicals. One historical excerpt identifies organic solvents, as a group, as neurotoxins.

“Solvents readily cross the placental barrier, and are suspected of causing adverse reproductive effects which include cleft palate, spontaneous abortion, neonatal sepsis and childhood cancer,” says an excerpt from the “Occupational Health Exam Guide.”

The document is dated 1988.

That was the year that one plaintiff’s father, Shawn Hatleberg, began working as a mechanic for Boeing’s Everett plant.

When filling out a health survey for his placement at the company, Hatleberg checked “yes” next to a question asking whether he was “capable of producing children.”

Another question asked “Are you pregnant at the present time?” (He marked “N/A.”)

There’s a note on the form, in small print: “Scientists generally believe that reproductive cells and the developing embryo and fetus are more sensitive than most normal adults to certain workplace chemicals and several forms of radiation.”

That was the year that one plaintiff’s father, Shawn Hatleberg, began working as a mechanic for Boeing’s Everett plant.

When filling out a health survey for his placement at the company, Hatleberg checked “yes” next to a question asking whether he was “capable of producing children.”

Another question asked “Are you pregnant at the present time?” (He marked “N/A.”)

There’s a note on the form, in small print: “Scientists generally believe that reproductive cells and the developing embryo and fetus are more sensitive than most normal adults to certain workplace chemicals and several forms of radiation.”

Green mist

Hatleberg helped assemble 747s as a “final body join” mechanic at the Everett plant, Connett said.

As the jets neared the end of production, dozens of people would work to finish the plane at the same time, using a variety of chemical products, Connett said. Some of these mechanics worked inside the aircraft, confined in small spaces with chemical fumes.

The depositions highlight a disconnect between what’s written in handbooks and manuals and what actually happens on the bustling shop floors, where there are hundreds of chemicals in use.

“One of the things that we have learned through the course of discovery is that the first and second line managers at the Everett plant often don’t enforce the safety rules that are in effect,” Connett said. “And as a result, you have a disconnect often between the safety policies as written and the actual workplace practices that are in effect.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “what we have found is that too often at Boeing, it’s production that they prioritize, not safety of their workers.”

Among the products Hatleberg handled was a primer called BMS 10-11, containing high levels of hexavalent chromium and toxic solvents, Connett said.

For years at Boeing, standard practice was to apply the widely used primer with aerosolizing devices called a pre-val, according to the depositions. Around 1990, this practice was “basically banned” because employees had little control over how much of the chemical spewed from the pre-vals, Krause testified.

Before the ban, mechanics would spray the chemical — some without respirators and sometimes in close proximity of one another — emitting a “green mist in the air laden with hexavalent chromium, toluene and other industrial poisons,” Connett said. The substance also routinely got on Hatleberg’s skin when he was painting it onto surfaces using a brush, according to the attorney.

Not knowing that some hardware was plated with cadmium, some Boeing mechanics placed fasteners in their mouths to free up their hands for the drilling, Connett said.

Dana Ford, father of plaintiff Natalie Ford, worked in the final assembly process when his daughter was conceived in 2013. On the interiors of 777 freighters, he often used some of the same chemicals as Hatleberg.

Two of the chemicals Ford worked with, MPK and corrosion-inhibiting compounds, remain common at Boeing’s factories, even though employees have long-complained about headaches and respiratory issues because of the fumes, according to the depositions.

Included in the depositions are a sampling of audits of Boeing’s Everett plant, from as early as 1989 to as recent as 2019, citing safety violations related to protective gear, employee training and airborne chemical levels.

In 1989, OSHA found levels of chromates and other chemicals in excess of regulatory limits at Boeing Advanced Systems’ Everett Site, according to an audit. Workers weren’t wearing required respirators, gloves and other protective gear, says an internal memo about the audit. Chemicals weren’t properly labeled.

“Employees were not provided with information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of their initial assignment or on a continual basis in relation to the completion of the assigned job task,” says the memo.

State and federal regulators assessed over $170,000 in fines.

About the same time, Krause testified, Boeing made a big push to recruit more medical, toxicology, health and safety specialists. In the 1980s, he started his own business as a consultant. He got a call from Boeing.

At the time, the company was in the process of building its chemical inventory. As part of Boeing’s “hazard communication” program, reams of chemical safety data sheets were distilled into more practical “HazCom info sheets,” which outlined a worker’s risk while performing a given job duty or process.

In the 1990s, Krause traveled to shops around Puget Sound, giving two-hour training courses tailored to each one based on workers’ job functions.

“That was the whole idea — and it was kind of brilliant, really — not just throw a bunch of safety data sheets out there, but actually look at what they’re doing, how they’re using chemicals, monitor it so you know what the exposures are,” Krause testified in his deposition, “and then for their shops and their operations, boil it down to a few HazCom info sheets that you’d go over with them.”

Over the years, Boeing has taken steps to reduce worker exposure to some toxic chemicals. It invested in better technology and facility upgrades, while phasing out certain products and practices. Information once kept in binders and handbooks in shop rooms was moved online.

The company instituted monitoring programs to ensure worker exposure levels were below regulatory maximums.

Still, the depositions raise questions about whether training workshops and warnings in the fine print have been enough to convey the true dangers of toxic chemicals to thousands of workers.

In 2021, Boeing toxicologists reviewed health hazards for more than 100 chemical information sheets, according to notes from a meeting of company industrial hygienists.

It was then — decades after scientific literature documented a link between birth defects and organic solvents — that the company added a line to that database entry.

“May be toxic to reproduction.”

Read full article by Rachel Riley on the herald.net website. 

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  • US Congress passed landmark Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
  • In Ireland the Factories Act of 1955 did not apply to the Defence Forces.
  • The Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Act, 1989 was the first Health & Safety legislation to specifically apply to the Defence Forces
  • The Air Corps knew in 1995 that some workplace locations were seriously contaminated but failed to remediate same and failed to inform personnel.
  • In 1997 the Air Corps were told by Forbairt to provide personnel with chemical handling training and to issue PPE.
  • The Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Act, 2005 replaced the 1989 act.
  • In Winter 2013/2014 the State Claims Agency became aware that the toxic chemical exposure problem at Baldonnel was a “live” and not historical issue.
  • The Health & Safety Authority threatened legal action against the Air Corps in 2016 on foot of complains by whistleblowers. 
  • The Air Corps informed the HSA that they would make the improvements to become compliant with the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Acts by December 2017.

Air Corps failed to comply with Supreme Court order in chemicals exposure case

Former aircraft mechanic Gavin Tobin alleges exposure to dangerous chemicals led to severe health issues

The Air Corps has failed to comply with a Supreme Court order to hand over safety documents to a former aircraft technician suing over his exposure to dangerous chemicals, a judge has ruled.

Gavin Tobin is one of about 11 former Air Corps members who allege continuous exposure to chemicals used in the maintenance of aircraft has led to severe health issues. His case, which was lodged in 2014, has been referred to as test case for the others.

Mr Tobin joined the Air Corps in 1989 as an apprentice aircraft mechanic and was based in Baldonnell until leaving service in 1999. He claims during his service he was exposed to dangerous chemicals on an ongoing basis which resulted in severe personal injury.

Mr Tobin alleges that his employers “failed to provide him with a safe place of work, a safe system of work, safe and proper equipment, appropriate training, and safe and competent co-workers.”

Last month’s ruling by Mr Justice Mark Heslin is the latest is a long-running legal battle over what documents the Air Corps is required to hand over to Mr Tobin as part of discovery in advance of a full civil trial.

The Air Corps was originally ordered by the High Court to make full discovery relating to the chemicals to which Mr Tobin was exposed during this time in the maintenance section. This was overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court later confirmed the original order requiring broad-ranging disclosure.

Mr Tobin then received a substantial amount of documents, numbering over 1,200 pages. However these did not include some potentially important files, including safety certificates for the chemicals used by the Air Corps.

The Air Corps claimed it could not hand over the documents as they had been lost or destroyed in the intervening years. It also claimed it is under no obligation to seek replacements for these documents from the chemicals’ manufacturers.

Mr Justice Heslin ruled that this was an unreasonable position and that the Air Corps has failed to make proper discovery of documents.

Read full article by Conor Gallagher the Irish Times website…

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Death rate among former Irish Air Corps personnel needs to be examined, expert says

Whistleblowers blame premature deaths on exposure to toxic chemicals without PPE

The rate of deaths among former Air Corps personnel who have been exposed to dangerous chemicals needs to be examined by the Government, a leading public health expert has said.

Anthony Staines, who is professor of health systems at DCU, said the number of former personnel who have died prematurely appears to be higher than what would be expected for that population.

Protected disclosures about the exposure of aircraft technicians to dangerous chemicals at Baldonnel Airfield were first made to the Government in 2015.

One of the whistleblowers, former Air Corps technician Gavin Tobin, has been keeping track of serious illnesses and premature deaths in former colleagues which he believes may have been caused by exposure to these substances without personal protective equipment (PPE).

As of Friday he had recorded 96 premature deaths resulting from a variety of illnesses, including heart problems and rare forms of cancer. The average age of those who died is 52, he said.

Prof Staines told The Irish Times he has examined the figures provided by Mr Tobin and found them “surprising”.

He said the death rate is not particularly out of step with the general population but that “this is a group of people where the death rate should be low!”.

Read full article by Conor Gallagher the Irish Times website…

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Worker claims he was exposed to toxic chemicals while working on refurbishment at Intel plant

A man who has claimed he was exposed to a toxic and noxious chemical while working on a refurbishment job at the Intel Ireland plant has launched a High Court action.

Seven years after the alleged exposure the prognosis for 71-year-old John Matthews w,ho suffers from shortness of breath, is chronic, his counsel Barney Quirke SC told the court.

The claims relate to the refurbishment of a clean room where microchips are manufactured at the Leixlip, Co Kildare, plant and the pouring of a chemical sealant known as Penatron ASTC 3003c

The case is being regarded as a test case for as many as 10 other actions being taken in the High Court in relation to alleged exposure.

Opening the case, Mr Quirke SC, with Richard Lyons SC, said the alleged exposure has had a cruel effect on the life of father-of-four John Matthews and his retirement is completely altered from what he expected.

His client worked as a carpenter and was involved in what were called pop outs where the chemical Penatron was poured.

Mr Matthews, of Ardee Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, has sued his employer Ardmac Ltd with a registered office at Swords Business Campus, Balheary Road, Swords, Co Dublin, and Intel Ireland Ltd with registered offices at Simmonscourt House, Simmonscourt Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin. The refurbishments works on an Intel clean room were being carried out by Ardmac at the Leixlip plant.

Mr Matthews has claimed between June 2013 and October 2014 he was allegedly exposed to toxic and noxious chemicals including Penatron/ASTC 3003c while he was working at the plant.

He has also claimed a number of his co-employees were allegedly exposed to known carcinogens.

Read full article on the Irish Independent website…

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A considerable number of Irish Air Corps have gone on to work in Intel and have generally been astounded by the high levels of chemical health & safety employed there.

While it is very disappointing to hear of personnel being injured at Intel it just goes to show that even with a high quality health & safety regime dangerous exposures can still happen. 

The Irish Air Corps on the other hand had dangerous chemicals dripping down the walls from extractor fans yet still claim that Air Corps personnel were not exposed to dangerous chemicals. Safety was so poor in the Irish Air Corps that personnel didn’t even know what PPE was, it wasn’t part of the lexicon. 

Below is the safety data sheet for the sealant alleged to have caused harm in Intel. The dangerous chemical components of this sealant are called isocyanates. Isocyanates are notorious immune sensitisers and were the class of chemicals involved in the Bhopal disaster. Persons sensitised to isocyanates can suffer asthma attacks & anaphylaxis at levels as low as one part per billion. Furthermore sensitisation to one isocyanate like HDI can lead to a cross sensitisation to other isocyanates like MDI or TDI etc. 

The Spray Paint Shop at Casement Aerodrome emitted hexamethylene diisocyanate on a daily basis as a component of polyurethane paint, these emissions contaminated Engineering Wing Hangar while other personnel went about their unrelated daily business.

BFTS personnel were also exposed to methyl-diphenyl diisocyanate when they filled barrels with expanding foam for air firing at Gormanston.

If anyone who has lost a loved one before age 66, who had worked in the Irish Air Corps as military or civilian personnel or as work experience students please feel free to contact the Irish Independent journalist Rodney Edwards via email to redwards@independent.ie 

If you are serving or former personnel and if you are sick because of your service or if were or are being bullied for being sick please consider emailing Rodney too.

Veterans say Irish Air Corps to blame over health problems caused by (unprotected) exposure to toxic chemicals at work

Former airman Gary Coll can’t walk without the aid of a stick. He wakes up in pain each morning and suffers from a slow heart rate, memory loss, severe anxiety, and chronic fatigue — which he blames on having been exposed to dangerous chemicals while serving in the Air Corps over 20 years ago.

Registered disabled at the age of 35, Coll says he has suffered a litany of health problems over the years as a result, including stomach ulcers and bowel, thermo-regulation, and urinary issues.

His colleague Pat Reilly suffers a litany of problems too. They feel ignored by the State. In today’s Sunday Independent, they share their stories.

Read full article by Rodney Edwards on Sunday Independent website…

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36 men and 1 woman have died since a protected disclosure was made to Minister Simon Coveney in 2015. Minister Coveney has done absolutely nothing to provide targeted healthcare for  exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay.

If anyone who has lost a loved one before age 66, who had worked in the Irish Air Corps as military or civilian personnel or as work experience students please feel free to contact the Irish Independent journalist Rodney Edwards via email to redwards@independent.ie 

If you are serving or former personnel and if you are sick because of your service or if were or are being bullied for being sick please consider emailing Rodney too.

AIR RAGE Dangerous chemicals have caused deaths of 90+ former members of Defence Forces, TD claims

TWO former members of the Defence Forces have died in the last month as a result of dangerous exposure to dangerous chemicals, a TD has claimed.

Wicklow TD John Brady has expressed concern over reports that another two former members of the Defence Forces passed away in recent weeks, after working with dangerous chemicals during their time of service with the Air Corps.

This brings the figure to over 90 former members of the Defence Forces who have reportedly died prematurely as a consequence of exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Mr Brady, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence, said: “Following their dangerous exposure to chemicals during their service in the Air Corps, a considerable cohort of former members have developed serious health issues.

“It is probable that there have been over 90 deaths as a consequence. “Many of those who have succumbed to illness have suffered from cancer and neurological problems, and other chronic conditions, many of which have proven to be life altering for sufferers.“ “Many are also at high risk of developing early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“Young Air Corps members, many of them apprentices, were expected to handle dangerous chemicals without appropriate, or indeed in some cases any, safety equipment or clothing.

“There is an ongoing court case since 2013. At every juncture the government has dragged its heels. It has delayed the handing over of important paperwork, despite being ordered by the court to do so. “The fact that the court case is still ongoing has been used by the government as a means to hide from answering important questions on the issue.“

“The priority at this stage has to be the prevention of further unnecessary suffering, or death, amongst members of the Defence Forces, through continued exposure to chemicals. “We also need to see that the quality of life of those that are currently suffering is improved.

“These individuals deserve fairness, and they deserve justice. “I am calling on the government to come clean on this matter. There is international precedence that can be followed here.“

Global Issue

“The Air Forces of the Netherlands and Australia have previously dealt with similar issues arising out of exposure to the same chemicals, with competence, urgency, and in a manner that was fair and just.

“The government must introduce measures to assist those who have fallen ill, along with a screening programme for all who have been exposed to these chemicals.”

Whistle-blower Gavin Tobin, who worked as a technician with the Air Corps, has previously wrote to then-Minister for Defence Simon Coveney about the issue of chemicals in 2015.

Read full article by Aoife Bannon at the Irish Sun website
https://www.thesun.ie/news/7933878/air-corps-defence-forces-chemicals-sinn-fein/

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35 men & 1 woman have died since a protected disclosure was made to Minister Simon Coveney in 2015. Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for  exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to downplay.