Watch & read Leo Varadkar the Taoiseach & then Minister for Defence, deny healthcare life saving healthcare initiatives for survivors of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure Scandal way back in 2018

Watch Leo Varadkar, then Taoiseach & Minister for Defence, deny calls for healthcare for survivors of the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy when requested by Aengus O’Snodaigh of Sinn Fein.

Varadkar gaslights survivors by claiming that Air Corps personnel were dying of everyday illnesses that most people will experience. However he ignores the young age of 48 that Air Corps personnel have been dying at.

Varadkar believes that the courts are the best place to assess the evidence of needless toxic chemical exposure of Irish Air Corps personnel by hearing all the evidence while the Minister, the Department of Defence and the Air Corps fight tooth and nail to make sure that all the evidence is not available to the plaintiffs.

By turning a medical issue into a legal issue Varadkar callously condemns those with on inclination to take legal action to unmitigated suffering and possibly an preventable early death.

Transcript 7th February 2018

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh – Sinn Fein

Seven cases are being taken against the State by current and former serving members of the Air Corps. They believe that they have been forced to take this action by the State’s failure to protect them from their exposure to toxic chemicals during their service, which led to serious, chronic and fatal illnesses, including cancer. While those cases will ultimately be dealt with by the courts, that does not prevent the State from taking action. As early as the 1990s, numerous State-commissioned reports highlighted health and safety concerns about chemical exposure at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, but no action was taken at the time. In fact, these reports mysteriously disappeared or were ordered to be shredded. Even after litigation commenced in 2013, basic health and safety precautions were not implemented at Baldonnel. It appears it was only after the Health and Safety Authority conducted an inspection in 2016 that personnel were provided with basic precautions like personal protection equipment such as gloves and overalls.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of personnel who have passed through Baldonnel may be suffering from chronic and even fatal illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals during their service. There is also a possibility that family members have been affected, as evidence suggests that there is a higher rate of a variety of health conditions among spouses and children, including stillbirths and miscarriages. The Government has taken no action to find out the extent of this scandal or to ascertain how many people might be suffering as a result of it. Instead, it is fighting tooth and nail through the courts to force sick people to take gruelling journeys in search of justice. By comparison, the Australian Government has set up a board of inquiry to conduct a thorough investigation into similar matters. It commissioned a survey of health outcomes for the relevant personnel and their families and put in place a health care system for those who were affected.

As the Taoiseach knows, a protected disclosure from one of the whistleblowers was recently released publicly. It makes for harrowing reading. It lists 56 deaths of former serving Air Corps personnel at an average age of 48. All of the cases listed relate specifically to people who died before they reached the age of 66. The disclosure is based on research done by the whistleblower in the absence of any State-funded investigation into these matters, but it is by no means exhaustive. I believe another number of deaths have been identified since it was published. It is clear that successive Governments have failed in their duty of care to the men and women who served in the Air Corps. This Government has an opportunity to do the right thing. We do not want to be here in ten years’ time with a higher death toll, having failed to address this scandal. Has the Taoiseach read the disclosure? Has he responded to the whistleblower in question? Does he accept that the time has come to order a full inquiry into these matters?

Leo Varadkar – Taoiseach & Minister for Defence  – Fine Gael

As the Deputy said, a number of cases are currently before the courts. While I have absolutely no doubt that the serious ill-health suffered by some former members of the Air Corps is real, it has not been proven whether this array of illnesses could be caused by chemical exposure. Obviously, these cases will be heard in the courts, which will hear all the evidence and, on that basis, make a determination on the claim or allegation that all of these illnesses were caused by chemical exposure. I think that is the right way for this to proceed. The health and well-being of men and women of the Air Corps are, of course, matters of huge concern and interest for the Government.

The Minister of State has ensured that allegations relating to exposure to chemical and toxic substances while working in Baldonnell were independently reviewed. Before considering any further steps, the Minister of State has asked those who made the disclosures for their views. He is examining options for next steps in the process in light of the views he has received from those who made the allegations in the context of ongoing litigation.

The independent report considers the Defence Forces’ health and safety regime and its current policy and application. In respect of historic matters, as litigation had commenced before protected disclosures were made, the report states that the courts are now the most appropriate forum for such matters to be assessed and are the best place to assess all the evidence. Although the report finds that the Defence Forces’ regime appears to be capable of meeting the statutory requirements, it makes a number of observations, including in respect of documentation, health surveillance and exposure monitoring. It also observes that the Health and Safety Authority is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations.

Separately, and in parallel to this independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps has continued to work with the Health and Safety Authority to improve its health and safety regime. It should be noted that there is a significant overlap between the recommendations of the HSA and those of the independent reviewer. The military authorities have informed the Minister of State that the HSA has formally noted the high level of co-operation received from the Air Corps and the considerable progress made to date by the Defence Forces towards the implementation of safety management systems for the control of hazardous substances.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh – Sinn Fein

There is no denying that things are better in the Air Corps. However, what the Taoiseach has just read out does not in any way address the legacy of bad management and a bad health and safety record there. I do not know if the Taoiseach remembers that he is also Minister for Defence. He has a direct responsibility to look into these matters. He is also a medical doctor and will understand the list of illnesses that has been provided to his Minister of State, which includes very serious and often fatal conditions, as the other disclosure indicated. We do not know how many people have been exposed in an unprotected way because nobody has carried out a survey. The Australians did not wait for the courts to adjudicate fully, they acted immediately.

There is a list of chemicals, albeit a partial one, which was given to Deputy Lisa Chambers. How many of the people involved have been exposed? As the Taoiseach is aware, if a doctor does not know what people have been exposed to, he cannot help, diagnose, prescribe or direct medical procedures. This is about saving lives. Will the Taoiseach act now not in respect of the specific cases but on the legacy of all of those who are suffering in the general public?

Leo Varadkar – Taoiseach & Minister for Defence  – Fine Gael

The Deputy is absolutely correct; I am Minister for Defence. The Government has delegated responsibility for defence matters to the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, whom I fully trust to deal with this issue appropriately.

I am a medical doctor and have seen the list of illnesses that these former members of the Air Corps and their families have suffered. It is a very long and extensive list of illnesses, including the most common illnesses which most people may encounter, namely, cancer, cardiovascular disease, suicide and miscarriages by their partners. As a medical doctor, it is not possible for me to say if exposure to chemicals caused all or any of these illnesses because they are commonplace in the community at large. **If it was one specific illness resulting from a known chemical that caused such an illness, that would be one thing. These are not the allegations that are being made, however. There is litigation before the courts, which are best placed to assess the evidence and see whether the allegations are supported by it.

Delay – Deny – Die

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 104 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980
  • 91 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 66 of these deaths have occurred since 2010

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

  • 41% of deaths are from cancer
  • 12% of cancer deaths are specifically pancreatic cancer
  • 9% of cancer deaths are spcifically glioblastomas of the brain
  • 30% of deaths are cardiac related
  • 20% of cardiac deaths are specifically cardiomyopathy
  • 14% of deaths are from suicide (at least 15 suicides)

*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 53 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

We are not stating that every single death is directly due to chemical exposure but many personnel who did not handle chemicals directly were unknowingly exposed due to close proximity to contaminated work locations.

** Thousands of officer, enlisted & civillian personnel, some only children, were exposed to hundreds of dangerous chemicals on a daily basis at Baldonnel & Gormanston over many decades. This occured without informed consent, without any chemmical Health & Safety training, in most instances without even basic PPE and in many instances without the knowledge of those being exposed. 

It is simply impossible for such a mass exposure to cause  one specific illness. The Taoiseach was simply using his position as a doctor to gaslight survivors.

 

Watch & read Micheál Martin, the current Tánaiste & Minister for Defence, call for a public inquiry into the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure Scandal way back in 2017

Watch Micheál Martin TD the current Tánaiste & Minister for Defence call for then Taoiseach Enda Kenny to launch a public inquiry into the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure scandal way back in February 2017 when he was opposition leader.

Micheál Martin subsequently met with Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors in June 2017 and promised his ongoing support to help investigate and remedy the problem. Towards the end of that meeting one survivor asked if Martin would continue to support Air Corps survivors when he got into power and Martin replied “I will because it is the right thing to do”.

Since being elected to government he as done a complete about turn in that he has left injured Air Corps personnel to rot without any targeted medical interventions whatsoever by the Irish State.

Similar called for interventions in Australia for Royal Australian Air Force personnel has saved lives and reduced unnecessary suffering. But in Ireland Micheál Martin  continues the state mantra of DELAY DENY DIE.

Transcript

Deputy Micheál Martin – Fianna Fail

I want to raise a very serious issue with the Taoiseach which, on reflection, could represent a serious scandal. It involves an unacceptable response by the State regarding exposure to dangerous chemicals at the aircraft maintenance shops in Baldonnel by members of the Air Corps over many years.

Three whistleblowers warned the Taoiseach and the then Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, in November 2015 about the conditions at the Air Corps maintenance shops in Baldonnel and the degree to which staff were exposed to very dangerous solvents and chemicals. The links of the particular chemicals involved to cancer-causing diseases, genetic mutations, neurological conditions and chronic diseases have been well-established. A precedent has been set by Australia where, in the early 2000s, the issue was identified and acted on by the Australian Government.

Complaints were made to the Department of Defence, the Air Corps and the Army in 2012 regarding this matter. In November 2015, the then Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, was informed that workers were not receiving occupational health monitoring, as is required by law under the Health and Safety Act 2005. In what was an extraordinary situation, they were not provided with protective equipment and clothing as they worked with very dangerous chemicals. PDFORRA wrote to the Air Corps in 2015, warning that any health inspection of Baldonnel would produce damning findings. It took until 2016 for the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, to threaten the Air Corps with prosecution unless it implemented a number of recommendations, including the provision of appropriate equipment for handling chemicals and the surveillance of staff health to monitor any adverse effects they experienced as a result of their duties. Is it not extraordinary that in 2016 the HSA wrote to the Air Corps to demand that very basic provisions of our law be implemented?

The whistleblowers received no formal acknowledgement from the Minister, Deputy Coveney, during that 12-month period. The response of the State has been standard and deeply depressing. It has resorted to the courts. There are currently six cases before the courts, and the Government is fighting them very strongly and acknowledging no negligence. In 2000, the Australian Government appointed a board of inquiry. Arising out of that, it commissioned a study of the health outcomes of aircraft maintenance personnel working in the F111 bomber programme , which came up with some fairly damning findings.

Why was the State so slow to respond to the whistleblowers and to investigate the health conditions at Baldonnel? Why were the whistleblowers not acknowledged by the Minister? Will the Government commission an independent health outcome study of aircraft maintenance personnel, similar to that carried out by the Australian Government, of personal working in aircraft maintenance shops in Baldonnel? Will it commission a similar independent board of inquiry of the entire affair and scandal?

Enda Kenny  – The Taoiseach – Fine Gael

A number of protected disclosures have been made regarding the Air Corps. An independent third party was appointed to review the allegations and those making the disclosures were informed of this. Since then, there has been a line of communication with the individuals involved. When the disclosures were received, legal advice was sought and an independent reviewer was appointed. Subsequently, the person appointed could not act and an alternative independent third party was appointed. In November, interim recommendations and observations were submitted to the Minister, which were passed to the military authorities for immediate action and response.

As Deputy Martin knows, I have delegated, by statutory instrument, responsibility for defence to the Minister of State, Deputy Paul Kehoe. On 7 January 2017, a response was received from the military authorities outlining the actions that are underway, which was forwarded to the independent reviewer who was appointed for his consideration. That reviewer will now consider this material, undertake the further steps he deems appropriate in order to finalise the review in the context of the situation being as serious as Deputy Martin has pointed out. Once a final review is to hand, let me assure Deputy Martin that the Minister of State will see to it that all recommendations to ensure the safety of the members of the Defence Forces are acted upon properly.

As the independent process is ongoing and these issues are the subject of litigation, I probably should not say any more. From my experience of dealing with the Defence Forces across the entire range of their operations, they have always operated to the very highest standards. The issues raised by Deputy Martin are very different and need to be dealt with. I hope that the response received from the military authorities, which is now in the hands of the independently appointed person, will be examined properly and the recommendations made by the independent reviewer implemented, as they should be.

Everybody wants those who give so much of their lives to the Defence Forces to have proper equipment, the very best facilities and be safeguarded, in particular in matters relating to health and safety, and that these are of the very highest standards. What the Deputy has referred to is different.

The HSA has carried out three inspections of the Air Corps in Baldonnel, focusing in particular on the control of occupational hygiene hazards in the workplace, including health surveillance issues. The HSA issued its report of inspection to the Air Corps on 21 October 2016. It listed a number of matters requiring attention, including risk assessment, health surveillance, monitoring of employees actual exposure to particular hazardous substances and the provision and use of personal protective equipment.

Deputy Micheál Martin

I am very dissatisfied with that response. The Taoiseach has not explained what happened between 2015, when the protected disclosure was made, and why the Minister, Deputy Coveney, did not acknowledge and respond to the whistleblowers. There is a sense that this has been buried.

The HSA report is dated October 2016. It states that staff needed to be given equipment to protect themselves from chemical exposure and that adequate and appropriately specified personal protective equipment, in particular protective gloves, eye protection and respirators for protection against chemical exposure, must be readily available to employees as required by relevant risk assessment findings. The implication is that this was not the case of up to that point, which is quite extraordinary. I agree with the Taoiseach about the degree to which we hold our Defence Forces in high esteem. The continual lack of enforcement and protection of health surveillance and so on is quite extraordinary.

I put it to the Taoiseach that the response of the Government is to bury this matter. Litigation is ongoing.

Will the Taoiseach ensure that the HSA report is published? Will he publish all internal reports in the Department pertaining to the matter? In addition, will the Taoiseach ensure that there was full public disclosure? We are not talking about just now, but what went on for the past 20 to 25 years.

An Ceann Comhairle – Seán Ó Fearghaíl

The Deputy’s time is up.

Deputy Micheál Martin

The Australian Government’s approach was markedly different to that of the Irish Government, which is to deny repeatedly and resist and more or less say to the whistleblowers that it does not accept anything they are saying—–

An Ceann Comhairle – Seán Ó Fearghaíl

The Deputy’s time is up.

Deputy Micheál Martin

—–and that it has no time for the manner in which they have gone about this. I have spoken to them and that is how they feel right now.

Enda Kenny – The Taoiseach

Litigation is ongoing, so I will not comment on it. However, the issues that have been raised need to be and will be dealt with. On the first person to be appointed, it is quite difficult to get somebody with the range of competences to deal with all the implications of hazardous substances and that sort of area. The second person that was appointed has now received the material.

The HSA issued its inspection report to the Air Corps on 21 October last year, in which it listed a number of matters. I am advised that the military authorities responded in writing to the HSA report on 23 December last year and indicated that the Air Corps is fully committed to implementing the improved safety measures that protect workers from potential exposures to chemicals and that it will ensure that risks are as low as is reasonably practicable. The Air Corps has implemented an improvement plan which has been conducted over eight phases. The first phase commenced in September 2016, with phase completion dates to December 2017. I am advised that seven of the eight phases are due to be implemented by May 2017.

A number of disclosures were made to the Minister for Defence under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. They were received in December 2015 and December 2016. I will update the House—–

Deputy Micheál Martin

What happened to them?

 

Enda Kenny – The Taoiseach

A person was appointed earlier on who was not able to take up the duty.

Deputy Micheál Martin

There was no response to the whistleblowers.

 

Enda Kenny – The Taoiseach

A number of other issues are the subject of litigation at the moment. However, I will update the House because we will sort this out.

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

*****

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. 

*****

  • 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…

*****

Joe Duffy, Liveline & the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure Scandal

In 1990, RTE radio’s Gay Byrne & Joe Duffy paid a live visit to the Irish Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. Since the above photo was taken, 94 serving & former Air Corps personnel have suffered untimely* deaths, dying at an average age of 53 years.

Many more personnel along with their partners & children have suffered catastrophic physical & mental health issues due to decades of unprotected & unmitigated toxic chemical exposure including exposure to CMRs

Joe Duffy is now the host of Liveline but when Irish Air Corps survivors attempted to get on the show they were refused.

Uncritical Irish Air Corps PR pieces by RTE radio continue while RTE news ignores the toxic chemical exposure scandal that HSA inspectors described as “the worst case of chemical misuse in the history of the state”.

*****

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 99 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 86 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 61 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
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

  • 42% of deaths are from cancer
  • 27% of deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 15% of deaths are from suicide (at least 15 suicides)

*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 53 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

We are not stating that every single death is directly due to chemical exposure but many personnel who did not handle chemicals directly were unknowingly exposed due to close proximity to contaminated work locations.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 5th April 2022 – Irish Air Corps surveillance of whistle-blowers

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 435

To ask the Minister for Defence the number of serving and former Air Corps whistle-blowers who have been placed under surveillance by the State Claims Agency or its agents. [18187/22]

QUESTION NO: 444

To ask the Minister for Defence the number of serving and former Air Corps whistle-blowers who have been placed under surveillance by the Defence Forces. [18185/22]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 435 and 444 together.

The conduct of surveillance activities by the Defence Forces is an operational security matter carried out in line with relevant national legislation. The relevant military authorities provide regular assessments, reports and briefings to me, as Minister for Defence, to the Secretary General of the Department of Defence and to the Chief of Staff. These assessments, by their nature, are confidential.

I am informed by the State Claims Agency that they do not comment on individual claims. The Agency’s statutory mandate is to manage claims in such a manner as to ensure that the State’s liability is contained at the lowest achievable level.

*****

DELAY – DENY – DIE – SPY

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…

*****

Was the Engine Shop / Avionics complex at Irish Air Corps condemned before demolition?

We revisit an old Parliamentary Question that was never fully resolved.

Personnels say ERF/Avionics was condemned and placed out of bounds, previous junior minister says no record of this.

Perhaps Simon Coveney could “ask someone”?

Written answers – Wednesday 5th July 2017- Department of Defence Properties

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

269. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date on which the building was condemned; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31724/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the military authorities that it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy within the allocated time. However, I have requested that the information be sourced as a matter of urgency and I will reply to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

No further response

Written answers – Thursday 12th October 2017 – Department of Defence Properties

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

188. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) at Casement Aerodrome, Dublin was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date of condemnation; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43216/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the military authorities that the former ERF Avionics building, which was a mixed brick and prefabricated structure, was demolished in 2009 as a direct result of the completion of more permanent, bespoke designed workshops in 2007.

They have further advised that following a review of records at the relevant locations within the Defence Forces that no known documentation exists indicating that this building was ever condemned or placed out of bounds prior to being demolished.

*****

The ERF / Avionics complex was highly contaminated and placed out of bounds in September 2007. Air Corps engineers where also actually fearful that the building would collapse during use.

However, in 2008 rooms on the Avionics side were pressed into use as indoor training areas for the Air Corps College. These indoor training areas shared contaminated air with ERF through interlinked open attic spaces thus further exposing personnel in an unprotected manner to dangerous chemical fumes such as dichloromethane.

Also in 2008 personnel who served in ERF sought their medical files from the Defence Forces and subsequently in early 2009 the building was demolished. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

“A force to be reckoned with” how the State Claims Agency have skin in the game of the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure scandal!

Health and Safety Times Issue 19 2007

A Force to be Reckoned With

The Defence Forces (DF) has become the first State organisation to have its safety management systems validated in an audit carried out by the State Claims Agency (SCA). The independent audit, which was carried out throughout 2006, is based on best practice standards such as OHSAS 18001, HS(G)65, AIRMIC and AS/NZS 4360:24.

At the presentation of health and safety compliance certificates to various DF units, Armn Billy Galligan’s photo shows (l-r): Col Brendan Farrelly (DDFT); Comdt Bob Corbett (DF H&S Offr); Gemma D’Arcy, lead investigator, SCA; Col Paul Pakenham (DFHQ); Maj Gen Dermot Earley (D COS Sp); Adrian Kearns (director, SCA); Brig Gen Pat O Sullivan (GOC DFTC); Pat Kirwan (head of risk and operations, SCA); Brig Gen Chris Moore (A COS Sp) and Lt Col ??

Certificates of compliance were awarded on 27th February (2007), verifying that proper health and safety management structures are in place throughout the Defence Forces.

A photograph taken in December 2007, the year after the State Claims Agency initial audits, showing cresylic acid and hexavalent chromium running down the walls. This was 10 months after Certificates of Compliance were awarded verifying that proper health & safety structures are in place throughout the Defence Forces. The small barrel dissolving itself contains hydrofluoric acid.

“The audit involved an examination of the safety management systems in Defence Forces headquarters, each of the six Defence Forces formations of East, West, South, the Defence Forces Training Centre (Curragh Camp), the Naval Service and Air Corps and in 16 units selected by the auditors from throughout the Defence Forces,” explained Comdt Bob Corbet, staff officer, health and safety.

This was the first time that DF safety systems had been audited. Over the last few years, the Forces had put in place various initiatives to improve its safety management systems and it was felt that these would satisfy the SCA requirements. “Firstly, we computerised our accident and incident reporting and administrative systems and that facilitated the gathering of accident and incident information, which in turn facilitated accident investigation,” explained Corbet. “We wanted to be in a position to comply with the 2005 legislation before it actually came into force.

The collapse of a technician in 2015 while preparing a Pilatus for the 1916 centenary commemoration fly-past and the subsequent chemical induced pneumonia caused to an NCO who came to the technician’s aid was the trigger for a complaint to the Health & Safety Authority. Neither injuries in this  incident were reported to the HSA as mandated by law. So much for the computerisation of accident and incident reporting.

AUDIT PROCESS

Once all these systems were in place, the State Claims Agency began its audit, which took almost a year. Pat Kirwan, head of risk and operations with the SCA, was one of the auditors, along with Gemma D’Arcy, lead risk manager. The State Claims Agency was established under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000. “Our remit includes the provision of risk management advices to the State authorities in order to prevent claims against the State,” explained Kirwan.

“With larger State authorities like the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, the Dept of Agriculture and the Irish Prison Service, we establish Risk Management Liaison Groups, so we can work in conjunction and consultation with them on risk management issues. We’ve a very claims focused view.”

Photo of dichloromethane (DCM) as stored by Irish Air Corps in 2015. DCM, which is metabolized in the liver as carbon monoxide after inhalation, was banned in the EU in 2012. DCM is capable of a range of health effects that the Air Corps were aware of such as cardiotoxicity & neurotoxicity. In 1995 an independent Air Quality investigation was commissioned by Capt. (now Lt. Col.) John Maloney at Engine Repair Flight. This investigation found DCM levels as high as 175ppm when the safe limit was 50ppm. Personnel who worked in ERF we never informed of this adverse finding nor the danger to their health.

When the SCA began its audit of the Defence Forces, it looked at the main issues which it felt could lead to large numbers of claims. “We then looked at the management process within the Defence Forces because, in order to have advices and recommendations adopted and effect real change, the systems for managing change and managing risk also had to be examined,” Kirwan continued.

According to Kirwan, the Defence Forces lead the way in health and safety risk management. “We see risk management systems accreditations as the way forward; it’s very much in keeping with the requirements of the 2005 Act and good risk management and claims management practice,” he said. “The SCA audit system is based on the OHSAS 18001, HS(G)65, AIRMIC and AS/NZS 4360:24 systems and has similar criteria. We’re experts in  these areas and we can say to the Defence Forces, as an independent body, that we feel that its systems meet best practice standards. The audit is a way of driving improvement, getting people interested and awarding achievement as well.”

It should be noted that personnel in the Risk Management Section of the State Claims Agency were eligible for  performance related gratuities aka “bonus pay” for improvements in the risk profile of organisations under their remit. Improvements that were so extensive Irish Air Corps personnel were still collapsing from lack of PPE a decade into State Claims Agency oversight.

Seán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
141. To ask the Minister for Finance if personnel employed by the State Claims Agency branch of the National Treasury Management Agency are eligible for bonus payments; and if so, the way in which these bonuses are structured and attained. [51615/17]

Paschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has informed me that it operates a discretionary performance-related payments scheme for eligible employees, which includes staff assigned to the State Claims Agency. The scheme rewards exceptional performance having regard to the employee’s own performance, the performance of the employee’s area of responsibility and the overall performance of the NTMA. Performance-related payments are made in accordance with parameters approved by the Agency’s non-executive Remuneration Committee. The overall amount of performance related payments made in respect of any year is also subject to the approval of the Remuneration Committee.

https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2017-12-05/141/#pq_141

The audit took the best part of a year because the SCA auditors had to sample the Forces’ key functions that impact on health and safety such as training, operations, procurement, engineering, buildings and the input of senior officers. The SCA audited the safety function in all the formations within the Forces, including the three army brigades, the Defence Forces Training Centre (Curragh), the Air Corps, the Naval Service and the Defence Forces’ Headquarters. “We then sampled at least two but usually three units on the ground within each of the formations, so a total of 16 units were audited,” explained Kirwan.

The audit examined safety policy and documentation; training; objective setting and planning; methods of monitoring and checking on progress; and methodologies for audit and review of systems. Essentially, it validated that the Defence Forces has in place the necessary systems to ensure continuous improvement in occupational health and safety standards.

The Defence Forces got the results of the audit just before Christmas, which was a relief to Corbet as he was due to leave for a six-month tour of duty to Kosovo in early April. “It was great to know the outcome before I headed off,” he said. “The criteria are quite strict and it was very satisfying to have our risk management systems recognised and accredited. There was quite a bit of work involved in it and it took a lot of commitment, and it was a lot of work for the auditors, too. We really appreciated their feedback”

A recently installed outdoor gymnasium at Baldonnel, ironically installed on the site of the old Engine Repair Flight. As can be seen in this photo the outdoor training area used by men & women of the Air Corps is located approximately 10 meters from the exhaust of the Spray Paint facility which exhausts such toxic vapors as benzene, toluene, xylene, hexavalent chromium & hexamethylene diisocyanate to name put a few.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
149. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the person or body that chose the installation location of the recently installed outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43855/20]

150. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the way in which the Air Corps formation safety office allowed a leisure facility such as the new outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin, to be installed 15 m to 20 m from the low level exhaust stack of the Air Corps spray paint facility; if the exhaust stack routinely emits chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction; and if he has full confidence in the current Air Corps chemicals health and safety regime. [43856/20]

151. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the cost of the new outdoor gym; the cost of installation; and the potential cost of relocating it to a safer alternative location at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43857/20]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 151, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that three protected disclosures were received in late 2015 and January 2016 in relation to the Air Corps. Legal advice was sought and an independent reviewer was appointed. The Reviewer’s independent report considered the Defence Forces health and safety regime, its current policy and its application. Although the report found that the Defence Forces regime appears to be capable of meeting statutory requirements, it makes a number of observations; including in relation to documentation, health surveillance, and exposure monitoring. It also notes that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations. The report of the independent reviewer was provided to the individuals who made the protected disclosures and it was also published on the Department of Defence website.

In parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016 by the HSA, the Air Corps had continued to work with the HSA to improve its health and safety regime. The HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances. The HSA has now closed its investigation. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

I am advised by my military authorities that the facility referred to by the Deputy is in fact an outdoor training area as distinct from an outdoor Gym. This equipment was installed at a cost of €21,918 including the necessary site works. I am further advised that the Defence Forces do not plan to relocate the equipment elsewhere as they are not aware of any safety concerns pertaining to the current location.

The SCA will return to the Defence Forces this year (2007) to carry out a maintenance audit. This time, the auditors will examine a smaller sample of functions but will look at some in more detail.

“We got nothing but the utmost cooperation from DF personnel over the course of the audit. They’ve taken a very pro-active approach,” said Pat  Kirwan. “After dealing with the Defence Forces for a period of time, we recognised that it was at the stage where, with a certain amount of work, it would very quickly meet the best practice international standards. When the Defence Forces sets about doing something, it tends to be done correctly,” he concluded.

Health and Safety Times Issue 19 2007 – A Force to be Reckoned With

This post is based upon an article written by Mary Anne Kenny and was published in  Health & Safety Times issue 19 of 2007. A PDF of the complete article may be downloaded here.

To recap a quick timeline of the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy and the State Claims Agency’s involvement.

  • August 1995 – Irish Air Corps receive report of an “Ambient Air Monitoring for Health & Safety at Work” commissioned by Capt. (now Lt. Col.) John Maloney. The independent report found that airborne levels of dichloromethane were detected at levels of 175ppm when the safe level was 50ppm. No action was taken to remedy this danger and personnel were not informed of the adverse test outcome.
  • January 1997 – Irish Air Corps receive a further report “Monitoring Air Contaminants in Work Shops” which was commissioned by Lt. (now Comdt.) Colin Roche. This testing was carried out by state body Forbairt. This report also found numerous health & safety shortcomings and recommended personnel be issued with adequate PPE and provided with chemical handling training. The Irish Air Corps finally said they would comply with this by December 2017 after HSA instructed them to do so a mere 20 years later. Hundreds were unnecessarily exposed in the intervening two decades.
  • 2006 – The State Claims Agency commenced continuous Health & Safety auditing of the Irish Air Corps
  • February 2007 – The State Claims Agency validated the Defence Forces Safety Management Systems to be in accordance with best practice standards such as OHSAS 18001, HS(G)65, AIRMIC and AS/NZS 4360:24. Certificates of compliance were awarded verifying that proper health and safety management structures are in place throughout the Defence Forces.
  • January 2014 – Legal cases commence against the Irish Air Corps alleging injuries caused by unprotected chemical exposure.
  • February 2014 – Irish Air Corps conduct their own internal retrospective investigation into ERF facility. Also shortly after the first legal case commenced State Claims Agency officials met with former ERF personnel at the Apprentice Hostel Auditorium at Casement Aerodrome. At this meeting the State Claims Agency discovered that the lack of risk assessments, lack of PPE and lack of chemical handling training was a LIVE issue and not a legacy issue as previously believed. At this point the State Claims Agency had the opportunity to alert the HSA to these failing and have ongoing needless exposure stopped. However, for reasons unknown, the State Claims Agency chose not to intervene to stop ongoing exposure. Not their job apparently.
  • November 2015  – Two technicians are injured by an unprotected exposure to n-hexane solvent while installing smoke generators into a Pilatus PC9m. This incident was not notified to the HSA as they are legally obliged.
  • November 2015 – PDFORRA National Health & Safety officer wrote to the DF SO Health & Safety Re: Concerns about the provision of adequate health surveillance for members in the Irish Air Corps
  • December 2015 – Serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel made complaints to the HSA as well as Protected Disclosures to Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney alleging wholesale breaches of the 1989 & 2005 Health & Safety at Work Acts. Breaches alleged included lack of chemical risk assessments, lack of job specific health surveillance, lack of PPE, lack of chemical handling training, lack of reporting of incidents, lack of reporting of spillages, disposal of toxic chemicals by dumping in the ground and pouring down sinks etc.
  • January 2016 – Health & Safety Authority commenced an investigation into the Irish Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
  • June 2016 – The Head of Department, Dept of Mechanical Aeronautical and Biomedical Engineering in the University of Limerick was alerted to the fact that scores of UL students seconded to Casement Aerodrome on work experience were likely exposed to a dangerous working environment. The response was “Please do not contact me or my office again”.
  • October 2016 – Another protected Disclosure was made to Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett alleging that a highly dangerous chemical, Ardrox 666, which contained dichloromethane, sodium chromate & cresylic acid had been dumped in the ground for years where Main Technical Stores was subsequently built. The Chief of Staff was also alerted to health problems suffered by personnel of MTS (& their children) that could possibly be linked to exposure. No action was taken on foot of this Protected Disclosure.
  • October 2016 – Health & Safety Authority issue report of their investigation of the Irish Air Corps and brought to their attention safety, health & welfare matters that they asked receive the Irish Air Corps “immediate attention”. The HSA warned the Irish Air Corps that if their advice was not heeded they could face further enforcement action including prosecution.
  • September 2017 – Health & Safety Authority write to Irish Air Corps recognising the high level of co-operation “and to acknowledge the considerable progress made towards the implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances that meets commendable standards”.
  • January 2018 – Protected disclosure made to Junior Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe listing 56 verified untimely deaths of serving & former Air Corps personnel who had died at or before age 66. This list excluded those who died from accidents or murder.
  • September 2018 – Health & Safety Authority “close the file” on Irish Air Corps opened three years earlier in December 2015.

Initial letter from Health & Safety authority to Irish Air Corps may be downloaded here. The Safety Data Sheet for Ardrox 666 may be downloaded here.

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Hopefully the above article provides readers a good overview of the involvement of the State Claims Agency in the auditing of Irish Air Corps Health & Safety.

The lead case in legal actions against the state was commenced in January 2014 and after judgements in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and a five judge sitting of the Supreme Court the case is now in its 8th year of legal discovery.

In the case of Gavin Tobin versus the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General the Judgment of Mr. Justice Clarke, Chief Justice, delivered the 15th July, 2019 can be read here