‘Reckless’ asbestos failures attracts fines for Hospitals Trust

 

Asbestos in hospitals

Asbestos in hospitals

A fresh signifier of the key role that asbestos surveys can play is the news that the NHS Trust responsible for three West Hertfordshire is to be fined due to its failure to protect its staff from the risk of exposure to the dangerous substance.

The West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead – reported itself to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after concerns were raised by a new member of staff about asbestos in one of its buildings.

This was followed by a full survey and the Trust eventually pleading guilty to five charges of breaching health and safety regulations over a period of more than a decade. At a recent St Albans Crown Court hearing, it was revealed that 47 estate staff who had carried out maintenance work at the hospitals had been contacted about the breaches.

Prosecutor Adam Payter said that while no condition had been contracted by any of these workers, they were at “real risk” of contracting a disease in the future. Diseases that can be contracted due to asbestos exposure at work include both the chronic lung condition asbestosis and the rare cancer mesothelioma.

The Trust admitted at an earlier hearing before magistrates that it had failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff exposed to asbestos between April 1, 2000 and December 6, 2011. Between November 12, 2006 and December 6, 2011, it also pleaded guilty to a failure to keep a written plan, take measures for managing the risk from asbestos and give adequate information, instruction and training to employees likely to be exposed to the fibres.

Nor, the Trust admitted, had it taken the necessary measures to reduce its employees’ asbestos exposure to the lowest reasonably practicable level.

Mr Payter, representing HSE, described sometimes “reckless” behaviour by the Trust as an aggravating factor in the case.

He commented: “It was aware of the risk, but failed to take appropriate action.

“There was considerable potential for harm to workers, there were continuing breaches rather than an isolated lapse, the defendant was aware of the risks, but ignored them. It was a continued breach and fell far below the standard required.

“However, defending QC Colin McCaul said that the Trust had been “candid with itself, the Health and Safety Executive, the court and the public”, adding that it now had a “robust, comprehensive and easily comprehensible” system in place. Sentencing by Judge Stephen Gullick is set to take place next week, in a case that simply serves of a further reminder of the value of the most appropriate and compliant asbestos surveys. Contact Trident Surveying now to learn more about our own asbestos management surveys that keep pace with the ever-changing and detailed HSE requirements.

Results announced of HSE’s latest asbestos management in schools inspections

 

Asbestos in Schools

Asbestos in Schools

A timely reminder of the importance of the right asbestos management surveys in educational establishments is the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) publication of the results of its most recent asbestos in schools inspection initiative.

The period between April 2013 and January 2014 saw the inspection by HSE of a carefully selected random sample of 153 schools outside local authority control, including independent, voluntary aided and foundation schools, academies and free schools.

71 per cent of the inspected schools were not required to make any changes to their present asbestos management arrangements or were given straightforward, simple advice. HSE did give written advice to 29 per cent (44 schools), and needed to take enforcement action for 13 per cent (20 schools). This action was in the form of improvement notices setting out a requirement for recipient schools to adjust their asbestos management arrangements.

Failures like training staff and the production of written management plans attracted enforcement action – not due to pupils or staff being deemed at significant risk of exposure, but because these are vital elements of the required control measures.

The new survey showed an overall improvement in compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations in England, Scotland and Wales compared to the findings of a similar programme that inspected 164 non-local authority schools in 2010/11, when 28 schools had 41 improvement notices served upon them.

The Head of HSE’s Public Services Sector, Geoff Cox, said that the last few years had seen “a lot of work by stakeholders across the school sector to raise awareness of the duty to manage asbestos. It is really encouraging to see that awareness of the requirements has increased since our previous inspection initiative.

“That said, schools should not be under any illusion – managing asbestos requires ongoing attention. Schools now have access to a wealth of guidance setting out clear and straightforward steps to achieve and maintain compliance. Where duty holders fall below acceptable standards, HSE has taken, and will continue to take, enforcement action.”

All schools are required to have up to date records of materials within their establishment that contain asbestos, so that the school knows the location of such materials that could be damaged or disturbed by normal activities or foreseeable maintenance, or when new equipment is being installed.

There is no significant risk to health posed by asbestos in good condition that remains undamaged and undisturbed, provided that appropriate asbestos management takes place in compliance with the legal requirements and in line with published HSE advice.

Training for maintenance staff whose work could lead to their exposure to asbestos is also essential, with such personnel needing to be made aware of the location and condition of any asbestos in the school.

Download Our Free Asbestos Guide Client Login
Trident Surveying is a member of the NECC Trident Surveying are ConstructionLine Pre-Qualified Trident Surveyors are CHAS Accredited Trident Surveyors are CSCS Card Holders Trident Surveyors are RSPH qualified
Trident Surveying Ltd, Unit 5, North Hylton House, North Hylton Road, Sunderland. SR5 3AD
Copyright Trident Surveying Ltd 2013
Company Registered No: 05985210 (England). VAT Registration No: GB 898 3377 54