Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Missile Residue Settlement Assailed; Mayport Naval Station Union Steward Says Agreement "Compromises Safety" for Civilian Workers, Navy Personnel

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Missile Residue Settlement Assailed; Mayport Naval Station Union Steward Says Agreement "Compromises Safety" for Civilian Workers, Navy Personnel

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY PIATT

A union official at Mayport Naval Station criticized a settlement reached this month between a federal safety agency and the Navy over possibly hazardous soot in a shipboard missile system.

Ed Brady, union steward for International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 1 and a vice chairman for a council of unions at the base, described the settlement as "window dressing" that only begins to address civilian employees' concerns and leaves sailors open to exposure to the hazardous residue.

Brady had hoped the Navy would have agreed to a process proposed in a meeting in July where a shipboard paper trail would certify that the below-deck missile system would be safe to enter.

"This settlement sends a bad message because it compromises safety," Brady said Monday night about the settlement released last week.

However, the settlement provides that the Mayport-based Southeast Regional Maintenance Center verify that current cleaning procedures are followed prior to civilian employees beginning work on the MK41 vertical launch missile system, which is used on one-quarter of the Navy's 282 ships.

The settlement spelled out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration applies to all Navy ships with the launcher.

Last week, James Borders, OSHA's area director, said the cleaning required in the Navy's maintenance plans should be enough to ensure safe working conditions, but there's been no way to prove whether those really happened.

OSHA has jurisdiction over Navy civilian employees but not active-duty Navy gunnery personnel, who spend the most time working inside the system, Brady said. And if the Navy had agreed to certifying the space was safe -- like it does with other systems on the ship -- a sailor would know whether to wear protective equipment because it might be several years between thorough cleanings of the launcher, Brady said.

"With this settlement that addresses only the civilian workers, the Navy has admitted there is a problem," Brady said. …

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