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Glasgow Health Board fined £10k for ignoring asbestos risk

23 Dec 13 A Scottish health board has been fined for putting its workers at risk from exposure to deadly asbestos fibres during a seven-year period.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard today that Greater Glasgow Health Board, known as NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, had failed to manage the risks of asbestos in a ground floor neurology plant and switch room of Southern General Hospital.

The court heard that three surveys, used to identify and manage asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in premises, had been carried out in the room. All three identified a “high risk” and recommended “removal and environmental cleaning”. The health board was advised of this on each occasion, but no action was taken.

In March 2011, following plans to run electrical installations into the plant room, a specialist company carried out a further survey that found ACM ceiling debris that posed a “high risk”.  The room was sealed and background monitoring tests showed a high level of air contamination. The matter was then reported to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE investigation found the health 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 over the seven years, exacerbating the issue.

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The court was told that the ACMs had since been removed and the area 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 solely with asbestos management across all hospitals in the health board’s area.

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.

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.”

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