Workers at a Cork medical equipment plant have warned a major accident is inevitable after a number of incidents where employees were hospitalised, injured or left sick.
A protected disclosure (PD) from staff at Stryker Corporation, an American multinational which has sites in Cork and Limerick, details a list of accidents, incidents and injuries at its three locations in Carrigtwohill, East Cork, including Springhill and Tullagreen. These include:
- May 25, 2019: Springhill site was evacuated after gas leaked from a solvent tank. Gardaí, firefighters and ambulances attended. Three workers were hospitalised. Others were violently sick.
- July 9, 2019: Days after a worker raised health and safety concerns about a machine in the Tullagreen plant, it caught fire. The protected disclosure claims an incident report confirmed that the safety mechanisms (fire suppressant) was turned off on the machine before the fire broke out.
- August 26, 2019: Four people were violently sick in a cleanroom at the Tullagreen site. They were taken to South Doc, then brought back to the plant, but then taken to CUH.
- September 3, 2019: Another fire on a machine in Tullagreen. A fire alarm did not sound automatically.
- January 17, 2020: Fire breaks out on a machine at the Springhill site. No fire alarm sounds. There is a verbal order to evacuate the site.
- August 24, 2020: Tullagreen site evacuated after a major fire in the ‘wet scrubber’ process. Five units of the fire brigade attended.
The PD was initially made to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in September 2020. Workers called on the HSA to undertake “unannounced and comprehensive inspections” of the plants.
Conditions at the plant were subsequently raised with the HSA by Cork East Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley following a number of representations from staff.
In correspondence, the HSA told Mr Buckley it had investigated the claims made in the PD and it was “satisfied that the matters have been adequately and satisfactorily addressed.”
However, on October 8 this year, another solvent was spilled, and inhaled by at least one staff member, who spoke to the Irish Examiner on condition of anonymity.
A photograph, seen by the Irish Examiner, shows a warning sign informing staff that a machine was faulty, and would not be fixed for a number of months. It asked staff to exercise caution due to risks of “radiation leaks”.
Staff say they have been raising concerns for almost three years to improve health and safety standards.
“The standards are on t