Every worker who has serviced Sea King helicopters since 1969 should be offered checks for asbestos exposure - not just those currently employed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).  

Unite, the country’s largest union, said it believed that there were more than 1,000 former MoD employees who could have been exposed to asbestos while repairing and maintaining the Sea King helicopters, which first came into service nearly 50 years ago.

Unite stepped in after the MoD issued a Defence Information Notice (DIN) to current employees advising them to fill in a personal asbestos record with a copy to their GP – however, there is no indication of advice to former employees who worked on the Sea Kings.  

Unite national officer for the MoD Jim Kennedy has written to the MoD asking three key questions:

  • Are systems in place to identify all current employees who may have been exposed to asbestos?
  • Are you offering any follow up counselling or access to medical checks?
  • What measures are in place to notify all former MoD employees of the risk they now face due to previous unknown exposure to asbestos while working on the Sea King?

Unite national officer Jim Kennedy wrote: “There are in excess of 1,000 ex-MoD employees who were or could have been exposed to asbestos while working on the Sea King repair and maintenance facility. 

“You will know that the MoD duty of care to the health and wellbeing of their employees does not cease on exit from employment, if in the performance of their duties employees have potentially been exposed to asbestos the MoD has a duty of care to notify those concerned of this new information and to offer guidance as the MoD has done for current employees.

“As someone who has campaigned throughout my working life to highlight the dangers of exposure to asbestos and the devastating effect it can have, through pleural plaques, mesothelioma, or other fatal diseases, I am extremely concerned regarding the identification of exposure to asbestos of maintenance personnel working on Sea King helicopters.

“This is an issue Unite the union takes extremely seriously.” 


Notes to editors:

Unite recently launched an online register so that members can quickly and easily record when they have been exposed to asbestos, and that information will be stored in case it is ever needed.

To access the online register go to: https://www.unitelegalservices.org/surveys/asbestos-questionnaire 

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065 Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org