Air Corps hazard reports may have been ‘destroyed’

Health and safety reports dating back over 20 years that raised concerns over working conditions within the Air Corps may have been destroyed, the Taoiseach has been warned.

In a letter to the Taoiseach last week, Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said: “It appears that health and safety concerns were known at the base for some time and there was a failure to act which may have unnecessarily and negatively impacted on the health of those working and serving at the base.”

Last month, the Irish Examiner revealed the details of a damning report in which the Health and Safety Authority threatened legal action against the Air Corps unless it implemented a number of improvements in its management of workers’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

The report came almost a year after three whistleblowers made protected disclosures to the Government relating to Air Corps technicians’ exposure to harmful substances.

The State is facing six legal claims from former Air Corps staff who have claimed that their chronic illnesses were caused by their working conditions in Casement Aerodrome.

In the letter, Ms Chambers revealed she has met with one of the three whistleblowers. She said that, “worryingly”, he showed her two reports dating from 1995 and 1997 “which appear to identify risks in the workplace around air quality and health and safety at work and where a number of recommendations were made surrounding use of and training around hazardous chemicals and use of respirators”.

“He asserts that these reports were destroyed but he has copies in his possession,” Ms Chambers said.

“I strongly recommend that you seek to see these reports and listen to what [the whistleblower] has to tell you. I am sure you will share the same concerns I have around this issue.

“Taoiseach, I believe we have to get to the bottom of this. If the State has failed in their duty to protect people in the course of their employment at Baldonnell then we need to identify those affected and ensure an adequate health care package is put in place for these people.”

Ms Chambers told the Irish Examiner she was shown the reports in question but does not have copies of the documents.

It is understood the two reports are the same documents referenced in the Dáil a fortnight ago by Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who said the documents “pointed specifically to the issues that were addressed in the Examiner newspaper and which a number of deputies in this house have been raising”.

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