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Liverpool NHS Trust in court over deadly asbestos fibres

Date:
27 February 2015

A Liverpool NHS Trust has been fined £10,000 after it emerged its workers may have been exposed to potentially-deadly asbestos fibres.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the fibres were discovered in the basement of its offices at Derwent House on London Road in January 2013.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that the organisation had failed to act on a survey carried out in 2006 which identified that an area of the basement may contain asbestos, and recommended that its condition should be properly assessed.

A HSE investigation found that workers had regularly been visiting the basement to access patient records.

The risk to them came to light on 9 January 2013 when the NHS Trust’s health and safety manager noticed that the doors to an out-of-use goods lift in the basement were damaged. The lift doors contained asbestos, which meant there was a risk of exposure to those accessing the basement.

A subsequent survey found that asbestos fibres were present in several different areas of the basement.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, of Prescot Street in Liverpool, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £696 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 26 February 2015.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Imran Siddiqui said:

“Around 4,000 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

“It’s therefore vital that organisations take the risks from asbestos seriously. The Trust, in line with the 2006 survey, should have assumed asbestos was present in an area of the basement and taken appropriate action to make it safe for people working there.

“Instead, workers were allowed to regularly visit the basement to access patient files increasing the risk of exposure to the potentially-deadly fibres.”

Asbestos was extensively used as a building material in the 50s, 60s and 70s but it becomes dangerous if it is broken up and fibres are released. Airborne fibres can become lodged in the lungs or digestive tract and can lead to lung cancer or other diseases, but symptoms may not appear for several decades.

Information on how to work safely with asbestos is available at www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos.

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. www.hse.gov.uk.
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  3. Section 3(1) states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
  4. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk/.

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