January 21, 2019

Medical exams underway on staff of navy ships where asbestos detected

Medical screenings on civilian employees who worked on the navy ships where asbestos was detected are being carried out.

According to the Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence Paul Kehoe, all staff on board LE Ciara, LE Orla and in the Naval Service dockyard, including the civilian workforce, have been briefed on the situation to date.

Answering a parliamentary question, he said that all Naval Service personnel who may have come into contact with asbestos have been screened by the Naval Medical Officer. “Medical screening of civilian employees by an occupational health practitioner has commenced and will be completed in the coming weeks,” said Kehoe.


Earlier this year while work was being carried out on both LE Orla and LE Ciara material which was suspected as being asbestos was found on both ships. A full survey and analysis of the ships confirmed that the material was asbestos.

Kehoe said that the HSA launched its own investigation into the incident and this is ongoing.

“I am advised that the HSA has visited the Naval Base a number of times and has served the Naval Service with an improvement notice under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005,” he said.

Since the discovery of asbestos, air sampling and monitoring has been conducted by an external contractor on both ships and in the transport workshops and the samples taken were found to be safe.

As part of the requirements under the HSA improvement notice, the Naval Service has engaged an external company, Abestaways, who are specialists in asbestos removals, to undertake the deep “environmental clean” of the two ships.

This clean-up commenced on 26 May and is estimated to take a number of weeks.

On completion of this process an independent asbestos consultancy company, Phoenix Environmental, will carry out air monitoring, analysis and third party assurance and reissue a re-occupational certificate as required by the HSA.

Kehoe said that in the early 2000s, an external asbestos company was brought in to inspect the ships. The company gave the fleet the all clear,despite asbsetos being present in some of the ships.

“That consultancy is no longer in business,” said Kehoe.

Serious situation 

“I am advised by the Naval Service that a full asbestos audit of all ships in the fleet will be carried out and in the interim a full asbestos risk assessment will be carried out prior to any work commencing. As I mentioned previously, this matter is being treated with the utmost seriousness and attention by the Department of Defence and the Naval Service,” he said.

Kehoe said the Naval Service will be launching a formal accident investigation team to investigate all aspects behind this occurrence and “to ensure that there is no repetition in the future”.

The minister said that while the cleaning is underway, the Naval Service is only currently operating six of its ships, just 75 per cent of its resources.

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Medical exams underway on staff of navy ships where asbestos detected

Fears for fleet after third navy asbestos discovery

Concerns have been raised about the operational effectiveness of the Naval Service after it emerged that a third vessel has been discovered to have potentially fatal asbestos onboard.

The Irish Examiner can reveal the ageing LÉ Aoife was immobilised off the Cork coast after it was discovered that a blown engine gasket was suspected to contain asbestos.

This came after she was put to sea even though other asbestos-containing material was removed from her days before.

LÉ Aoife was anchored off Ballycotton for nearly 24 hours after the latest discovery of asbestos in its engine room and became the third vessel in the eight-ship fleet to have asbestos issues.

The LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla have been “locked down” for the last couple of weeks at the Naval Service’s base in Haulbowline, Co Cork, after asbestos was found onboard both vessels.

The Naval Service admitted last night that asbestos was found on the LÉ Aoife last week following routine maintenance and she was subsequently sent out on patrol.

A spokesman said that “concern was raised over several gaskets, lagging and other material by staff, one of these items subsequently tested positive for asbestos”.

According to PDFORRA, which represents enlisted members of the Naval Service, the LÉ Aoife, which is over 30 years old, then set sail after the removal of the asbestos.

However, PDFORRA general secretary Gerry Rooney said a gasket in one of the ship’s two engines “blew” last Monday night and she remained anchored off Ballycotton because it was also suspected that it contained asbestos. The ship went back on patrol at about 7pm last night and is expected to brought back into port shortly for a thorough asbestos check.

Mr Rooney said it was “a very worrying development” and that the navy’s “operational capabilities were diminished” as a result of the asbestos issue which, he said, was of “concern” to his members.

Mr Rooney also questioned why the Naval Service had not implem-ented a promise to train numerous personnel quickly in identifying asbestos risks on its ships.

He said it was now imperative that the navy carried out a full audit immediately of all its ships for the substance.

The Naval Service spokesman said a routine maintenance procedure on the LÉ Aoife raised concern by crew members about asbestos still being onboard.

“After the full risk assessment was completed and whilst the procedure was being carried out, a gasket which was being removed raised concerns. This gasket was sealed into a protective bag and removed from the area,” said the spokesman.

“It should be stressed that this gasket has not yet been tested so it is impossible to state if it contains asbestos. This gasket was also covered in lubricant and had not been handled or ground in such a manner that could potentially lead to the release of any harmful fibres should they prove to be present,” he said.

The spokesman said the health and welfare of its personnel remained its primary concern. “All Health and Safety Authority guidelines were followed as those issues were addressed.”

It is expected the LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla will return to service when the experts remove their asbestos “which is estimated to take a number of weeks”.

“Following the recent experiences, the Naval Service has introduced further precautionary protocols on all vessels and the level of awareness of this potential risk has also been raised to mitigate any potential risk,” said the spokesman.

Commenting on the LÉ Aoife, the spokesman said the vessel would be examined by an expert contractor when she comes back into Haulbowline, but did not stipulate exactly when that might be, primarily for security reasons.

The spokesman added that “the Naval Service is currently engaged with their personnel to further inform them on these issues and address their concerns in a proactive manner”.

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Fears for fleet after third navy asbestos discovery

Nurses air concerns over asbestos removal

Nurses at a psychiatric hospital have expressed “grave concerns” about HSE plans to remove potentially dangerous asbestos from a ward while staff and patients are still in it.

Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) members said it was “incomprehensible” that the HSE plans to remove asbestos from a hospital ward in Glanmire, Co Cork while 13 patients and staff are still in situ.

They’re also shocked that an agency tasked with safeguarding the public’s health has suggested such a move when the Naval Service has “locked down” two ships after discovering asbestos on board.

The Navy said it won’t let anybody other than members of a specialist clean-up team into the vessels to remove the material.

According to staff, an asbestos removal team was supposed to start work yesterday morning at Unit 3, St Stephen’s Hospital, but didn’t arrive after the protest was mounted.

Psychiatric nurses can’t understand why the HSE wants to do this now, rather than wait until the unit is closed on April 28 for a total overhaul.

The PNA said the protest was organised to highlight “health and safety concerns” about plans to carry out the work on the acute admissions unit for males.

Admissions will cease there on April 14, ahead of the temporary shutdown two weeks later for complete refurbishment.

Nurses claim in the interim patients could be easily moved to another unit around 50 metres away while the work is being undertaken.

The PNA said a report commissioned by the HSE South had confirmed that asbestos is present in ward’s floor, but they also believe it may be present in the walls.

PNA sources said the last time asbestos was removed from wards at the hospital all patients were transferred out of them before the work began.

They are also concerned that other parts of the hospital, which was built in the 1950s, may also be contaminated with the substance.

Fianna Fáil spokesman for health Deputy Billy Kelleher said he thought it ironic that the Naval Service had locked down two ships when the HSE proposed to carry out asbestos removal while patients and staff remained in the ward.

The TD, who lives close to the hospital, said “all patients and staff had to be removed prior to any works being carried out”.

However, the HSE said specialists had classified the asbestos as “very low risk” and they would partition off work areas and seal them to prevent any air transmission to patients and staff.

“The works will be supervised and monitored by an independent accredited specialist company, who will undertake air sampling during all phases of the works,” a HSE spokesman said.

He added that patients wouldn’t be removed during the work.

“The remedial works themselves will be completed while the unit remains operational.

“Similar works have been completed in other occupied acute in-patient settings in Cork in recent years,” the spokesman added.

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Nurses air concerns over asbestos removal

Jason Johns: Bill would deny justice to Wisconsin asbestos victims

The Wisconsin Asbestos Victims Network is disappointed and troubled with the vote the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor took Oct. 9 to advance Senate Bill 13 out of committee. SB 13 would delay and deny justice for Wisconsin’s asbestos victims.

The Wisconsin Asbestos Victims Network was formed to stand up for veterans and other asbestos victims to fight Senate Bill 13. Our coalition consists of a diverse group of organizations that represent veterans, laborers, seniors, people of faith and advocates. On behalf of these groups, we urge the Wisconsin Senate to oppose this bill. SB Bill 13 puts in place unnecessary delays, forces disclosure of filings with federal personal-injury trusts and takes choice away from veterans and other asbestos victims.

Asbestos is deadly. Exposure causes many devastating diseases, such as mesothelioma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin ranks 14th in mesothelioma deaths. When asbestos was first introduced and used, the public had no idea the deadly affects it could have on health, but the asbestos corporations did. Veterans were unknowingly exposed to this product while serving their country. Naval vessels and military barracks were often lined with the product. Factory, foundry, mill, nursing home and construction workers were often exposed to asbestos while on the job, but they had no idea the harm that was being done to them.

Much of our work has been with veterans’ organizations, like the Wisconsin VFW and Military Order of the Purple Heart, because asbestos affects veterans at an alarming rate. Veterans make up 8 percent of the population but account for 30 percent of all mesothelioma deaths. Moreover, the Military Order of the Purple Heart stated that it has not been past practice for them to get involved in legislation that changes the Wisconsin judicial system; however, in this case they felt they had to take a stand to protect their members’ rights. They noted, “Sometimes we simply need to take a stand on behalf of our members when a proposed law would detrimentally affect their constitutional right to a day in court.”

The Wisconsin VFW has officially opposed this legislation because it “creates additional hurdles for veterans and their families. Senate Bill 13 would only serve to prolong an excruciating and time-intensive process. Delay for even one veteran suffering from the fatal effects of mesothelioma is unacceptable — justice delayed is justice denied.”

We have also spent much of our time listening to asbestos victims and their families tell their heartbreaking stories. A military veteran from Green Bay told us, “The air was so thick of asbestos dust he could not see the exit to his work area” while aboard the USS Benjamin Stoddert. A widow of an asbestos victim from Racine, who was a veteran and factory worker, said, “It was unbearable to watch her husband of nearly 50 years suffer.” The daughter-in-law of a mesothelioma victim from Oconomowoc told us her mother-in-law “did everything right in life.” She “worked at a nursing home taking care of sick people, invited nearby college students over for meals to discuss their faith and was named person of the year along with her husband in her local community.” She was exposed to asbestos at the nursing home where she worked most of her life.

It is wrong to impede on the rights of veterans and other asbestos victims to access justice. We should not protect the asbestos corporations that knew long ago the deadly effects their product could have on Americans.

Senate Bill 13 should not be scheduled for a vote. We urge all the Wisconsin senators to stand with veterans and other asbestos victims and oppose Senate Bill 13.

Jason Johns is executive director of the Wisconsin Asbestos Victims Network.

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Jason Johns: Bill would deny justice to Wisconsin asbestos victims

Workers' group re-files bill protecting construction workers, communities from asbestos dust

MANILA — Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), the biggest labor federation in the country, re-filed in the House of Representatives a bill banning importation, manufacture, process, use and commercial distribution of deadly asbestos and asbestos-containing products in the country to protect construction workers and communities from developing asbestos-related diseases.

“The problem with asbestos is that once workers are exposed to its dust, symptoms of the diseases related to it will manifest 10 to 15 years later. Banning asbestos is the way to go if we want to protect our workers and the general population from first-hand and secondary exposure,” said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of ALU-TUCP.

He also serves as program coordinator of the ban asbestos advocacy campaign in the country.

ALU-TUCP partners with Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) in the trade union lobby for approval of the bill.

Filed in two previous congresses, the bill is now known as House Bill 2638.

It was introduced by TUCP party list Rep. Raymond Mendoza.

The ban takes effect one year after the proposed bill is enacted into law, giving government agencies the necessary period of transition.

While it seeks total ban, the proposal allows the health and defense departments to give exemptions on some selected uses of asbestos upon filing of petition for exemption for a specific period as long as these would not injure public health or the environment and if there is no alternative to it.

It also calls on building owners and contractors to demolish buildings containing asbestos then transport and dispose the acummulated materials using standard safety protocols.

Once enacted, violators of the law will be fined P100,000 to P 1 million or meted imprisonment of not less than three months but not more than three years.

It provides for a central registry of workers exposed to asbestos and calls for an establishment of an asbestos-related disease research and treatment network to support detection, prevention, treatment and cure of asbestos-related diseases with emphasis on mesothelioma.

“Asbestos dust killed thousands of workers and other members of communities here and around the world several years after they were directly and indirectly exposed to the material. There are thousands more who are currently wasting away from pain and consumed by misery caused by asbestos-related cancers and other diseases due to exposure. Many of them used their retirement pay and pension benefits in medication to treat their asbestos-related diseases. This legislative proposal will put an end to this vicious cycle,” Mendoza said.

In the Philippines, an estimated 1.3 million workers in construction and general industry are significantly exposed to asbestos dust every day.

Heaviest exposure happens at removal of asbestos during renovation or demolition of buildings and structures.

Government issued the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Asbestos in 2000 to regulate importation, use, manufacture, transport and disposal of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials after a screening program in 1992 to 1996 by Lung Center of the Philippines found more than half of 1,542 shipyard workers in Subic Naval Base in Zambales contracted asbestos-related cancers and other diseases amid exposure to asbestos-laden materials.

The ban bill was introduced in the light of poor enforcement of the CCO.

Though it limits use of asbestos on several items and prohibits new uses and application of asbestos, the CCO does not have the teeth to hold violators accountable.

World Health Organization said all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic.

It said about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace and some 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.(PNA)


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Workers' group re-files bill protecting construction workers, communities from asbestos dust