Staff and contractors exposed to asbestos over many years
The Greater Glasgow Health Board (known as NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde) has been fined after several workers were exposed to asbestos fibres over a seven-year period.
Glasgow Sheriff Court heard (20 December) that the board failed to properly manage the risks of asbestos in a ground floor neurology plant and switch room of Southern General Hospital.
Three asbestos surveys had been carried regarding the room and on each occasion asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) in the ceiling of the room were identified as “high risk”. The action recommended to the Board on each occasion was “removal and environmental cleaning” but no action was taken.
In March 2011 a specialist company carried out a further survey which found several highly damaged ACMs, debris from the original ACM in the ceiling, that posed a “high risk”. The room was sealed and background monitoring tests showed a high level of air contamination and the matter was reported to HSE .
HSE investigators revealed that the Board had taken no action in relation to the ACM in the ceiling since the original 2004 survey, nor had it acted following the later surveys. The area had become extensively contaminated with unsealed asbestos debris as a result of the failure to act. Employees of the Board and contractors were exposed to asbestos fibres in the plant room during the seven year period.
Failure in duty to properly manage asbestos risks
Greater Glasgow Health Board, of JB Russell House, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Great Western Road, Glasgow, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 4(10)(b) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
The court was told the ACMs had since been removed and the area environmentally cleaned. The health board has also carried out a review of its asbestos management policy, including new training for staff and a new post had been created to deal with asbestos management across all hospitals in the health board’s area.
Following the case, HSE Inspector Aileen Jardine, 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 over a period of several years were exposed to harmful fibres.”