Three council workers have been suspended pending an investigation into how they were filling potholes.
Cork county manager Martin Riordan has confirmed the staff members have been suspended on full pay after health and safety concerns were raised about their work along a busy stretch of road in the Carrigaline area of Co Cork.
Mr Riordan said the investigation would focus on the workers’ compliance with health and safety rules, but declined to comment further.
However, it is understood the probe will focus on the traffic management system in place as they worked.
According to health and safety regulations, it takes a team of four to fill a pothole — a driver, two workers to operate the stop and go signs, and a fourth worker to actually fill the pothole.
It is understood the workers in this case were shovelling tar from a digger bucket without warning signs, lights, or stop and go signs in place.
Siptu is representing the workers and has engaged with the investigation.
“Siptu is awaiting further engagement with the council,” said union official Con Casey.
The concerns were flagged by a Health and Safety Authority inspector who saw the workers while driving to work.
The HSA declined to comment on the case, but a spokesman said: “The suspension of local authority staff for any reason including for breaches of health and safety legislation is entirely a matter for Cork County Council and was not influenced by the HSA.”
Councillors branded the suspension as “health and safety gone mad”.
Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath said that while health and safety is important, things have gone too far in this case.
“I have a great degree of sympathy for the workers involved in this situation.
“But it’s getting to the stage where certain health and safety guidelines are hindering work,” he said.
Carrigaline-based businessman James O’Sullivan criticised the suspension.
Mr O’Sullivan, who sits on the Department of Enterprise high-level group on business regulation, which is trying to find ways of streamlining business, said the country is being strangled by red tape.
“It is so demoralising when you come across situations like this. Yes, health and safety is important, but common sense must come in to play.”
Three local authority workers involved in or near road works have been killed in Cork, Waterford, and Kildare in the last two years.
The HSA is still holding a probe into the death of a Cork County Council worker in a workplace accident last November.
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