TWO Cork County Council road repair staff have been suspended after they decided, on their own initiative, to fix a pothole they thought posed a danger to road users.
The suspension was triggered because the repair crew allegedly began work without having two other staff to operate 'stop-and-go' traffic directions on either side of their truck.
The council confirmed the suspensions last night but declined to comment on specific details because the matter is still under investigation.
The Irish Independent learnt that the matter was outlined at a council meeting yesterday by county manager Martin Riordan.
"A number of staff were initially suspended with pay. Following an investigation, they were then suspended without pay," a council spokesman said.
"It involves a health and safety issue and, as there is an investigation ongoing, no further comment can be made."
No details of the men's identity or the location of the road was given for legal reasons. However, it is a health and safety investigation.
It is understood the men were part of a council road repair crew in the south Cork area.
They were assigned to repair a number of potholes three weeks ago and, having completed their task, were on their way back to their council depot when they spotted another pothole.
While this was not on their repair list, they deemed it was a potential road hazard which required immediate repair.
They were in the process of fixing the pothole when a health and safety inspector spotted that the work was under way.
However, the suspensions raised concerns among councillors yesterday.
"They stressed that while health and safety regulations were of paramount importance, common sense had to apply as well.
"If these men used their own initiative to fix a pothole they thought posed a hazard to motorists then I think it is very wrong to punish them for it," councillor Noel McCarthy (Labour) said.
Former Cork mayor, councillor John Mulvihill, said health and safety regulations needed to be implemented with common sense.
"Health and safety is of vital importance. No one is questioning that. But so is common sense and encouraging staff to use their initiative in their work to help the public," he said
It is alleged that there were less than four council workers at the scene, with no staff assigned to traffic control duties either side of the parked truck.
The investigation is expected to take several weeks to complete.
If the men are found to have breached guidelines, the sanctions can range from mandatory safety retraining, loss of pay, to the maximum penalty which is dismissal.