Accidents at work

Deadly asbestos risk not managed at children’s hospital

Workers and contractors were exposed to deadly asbestos fibres in the basement of a Glasgow children’s hospital.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed Greater Glasgow Health Board, known as Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS, had failed to properly manage the risks of asbestos at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that a survey in February 2009 had identified the presence of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in various locations within the plant room and noted that they were in good condition and presented a low risk.

The survey recommended the ACMs should be labelled and their condition monitored so any future deterioration could be managed.

In January 2011 a survey of the plant room was carried out prior to the installation of a new MRI scanner at the hospital.

This found that some of the ACMs were in a poor condition and now posed a high risk. It recommended removal and environmental cleaning of the area.

Air and swab samples for asbestos fibres came back positive, the plant room was then sealed off and the matter reported to the HSE.

The HSE found that the health board had taken no action since the 2009 survey to monitor the ACMs within the plant room. No labelling of the ACMS had taken place and nothing had been done over the following two years to maintain the materials in good condition.

The 2011 survey showed their condition had deteriorated, from good and low risk to poor and high risk, but it was not known precisely how or when the ACMs had been damaged.

The court also heard that employees of the health board and outside contractors regularly had to access the plant room and could have potentially been exposed to the harmful asbestos fibres in the plant room when carrying out maintenance work.

Greater Glasgow Health Board was fined £6,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 4(10) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Eve Macready, said: “The dangers posed by the presence of asbestos are clear. There is no known ‘safe limit’ and it is often many years after exposure before asbestos-related diseases appear – so it is important that exposure to asbestos fibres is kept to an absolute minimum.

“Glasgow Health Board failed in its duty to properly manage the risks of asbestos in its premises and as a result a number of employees and external contractors have potentially been exposed to harmful fibres.”

If you have suffered from asbestos-related illness, call PM Law solicitors in Sheffield on 0114 296 5444.

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