MoD criticised for failing to reveal workers potentially exposed to asbestos

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A union has criticised the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for refusing to provide information about workers who might have come into contact with asbestos while working on its helicopters.

Unite said it had been urging the MoD for the past year to contact the estimated 1,000 workers who undertook maintenance on its Sea King helicopters, which used components containing asbestos.

However, the MoD said it does not have a central record of the staff who had worked on the fleet since 1969, because many had been external contractors.

The union also requested information on how the MoD was contacting the workers to inform them that they could have come into contact with the substance, but it said it received no response.

Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer, said: “The MoD is more interested in covering up its failings then ensuring that workers who may have been exposed to asbestos are notified about their contamination.

“Workers could have been handed a death sentence by the MoD and it is not even prepared to warn them of what has occurred.”

The union urged the MoD to identify all current employees who may have been exposed to asbestos; offer counselling or medical checks for conditions like mesothelioma for all current and former workers; and notify all former MoD employees who may have had contact with the Sea King helicopters.

The MoD discovered asbestos in the helicopters last year, when maintenance on a retired aircraft revealed the presence of the material in an exhaust panel seal. It then emerged that components that contained asbestos had not been removed from the MoD’s supply chain.

In December the government urged military veterans and civilian maintenance workers who had worked on the Sea King fleet to report the possible exposure to the MoD, which would consider an award for compensation if they had developed an asbestos-related condition.

An MoD spokesperson told military publication Forces News: “We have been completely transparent throughout this process and have published comprehensive information for those who may have been exposed in the past, detailing the actions they should take.”

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