Civilian workers exposed to potentially deadly asbestos dust will be screened every two years for health defects it has been outlined today.
It is believed at least 30 civilian workers, employed by the Department of Defence, were exposed to the dust as they carried out a refit on the LÉ Ciara vessel last month.
At a meeting with senior Naval Service officers, the workers were informed that “an occupational health doctor will see all those who were exposed or have concerns and they will be put on a list for health screening every two years”.
The department is consulting with the chief medical officer for the Civil Service on the matter.
A document obtained by the Irish Examiner clearly states that no risk assessment was carried out, due to the fact consultants carried out a survey on the LÉ Ciara’s sister ship, LÉ Orla, in 2000 and found no asbestos onboard.
The report states that the Naval Service accepted this in good faith, but will now be carrying out a comprehensive sweep for asbestos and will make arrangements to have asbestos awareness training courses for its civilian workforce.
The Naval Service says it was told of the probability of asbestos being on the ship on March 21, but did not receive confirmation until positive test results were returned a week later.
The Naval Service is now seeking tenders through EU-wide procurement for quotes to clean up the ships and remove all the asbestos safely. It could take up to 10 weeks for the successful tendering company to be on site.
In the meantime, the LE Ciara and her sister ship remain locked down at the naval dockyard at Haulbowline.
Only people who are suitably qualified and wearing protective clothing are allowed onboard.
Officers said that it was also intended to carry out air monitoring in navy dockyard workshops and all other buildings at Haulbowline to identify if there is any other asbestos contamination.
Seven members of the Naval Service were also exposed to the asbestos dust. They have received screenings. Neither the civilian workers or the Naval Service members were wearing protective clothing.
PDForra, which represents rank-and-file members of the Defence Forces, is seeking legal advice about the responsibility the State may have in the future medical care of those affected.
The Naval Service said once the two ships had been cleared of asbestos and sent back out on operational duty, it will then start to screen its other ships for the substance.