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Health board fined for asbestos failings

20 June 2013

A Scottish health board has been fined for safety failings that led to several workers and contractors being potentially exposed to deadly asbestos fibres.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard today (20 June) that Greater Glasgow Health Board, known as Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS, had failed to properly manage the risks of asbestos in a basement plant room of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (Yorkhill Hospital) in Glasgow.

The 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 Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

An investigation by 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, of JB Russell House, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Great Western Road, Glasgow 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."

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.
  3. Regulation 4(10) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 states: "The dutyholder shall ensure that – a) the plan is reviewed and revised at regular intervals, and forthwith if – (i) there is reason to suspect that the plan is no longer valid, or (ii) there has been a significant change in the premises to which the plan relates; b) the measures specified in the plan are implemented; and c) the measures taken to implement the plan are recorded."

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