Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust fined over ‘potentially lethal’ asbestos exposure at its hospital
Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) has been fined £34,000 after refurbishment work undertaken in the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital exposed its employees and contractors to asbestos.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said workers’ exposure to asbestos was a “potentially lethal risk” that SaTH, which is currently in special measures, failed to control.
HSE’s investigation found that the trust did not properly record the asbestos materials on their estate and had insufficient auditing procedures, and inspectors said the procedures in place upon the discovery were “inadequate.”
The scandal-hit trust pleaded guilty to two breaches of asbestos control regulations and has been fined £16,000 and ordered to pay the costs of £18,385.
In June 2012, Telford Magistrates heard how trust employees were removing fixtures and fittings from the empty accommodation block at the hospital when they disturbed materials containing asbestos.
The trust then failed to take adequate measures to deal with the release of asbestos and failed to prevented re-entry into the contaminated area, which meant further contractors working on the flat were exposed.
HSE inspector David Kivlin said whilst there was no indication that patients at the hospital were exposed, he warned that 5,000 deaths per year in the UK were linked to asbestos related diseases which are currently untreatable.
“The trust should have controlled this potentially lethal risk by identifying the type, location and condition of any asbestos-containing-materials within the accommodation block at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital by implementing suitable precautions to prevent its disturbance.
“This prosecution should act as a reminder, not just to hospitals but to anyone in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises, of the need to ensure that correct control measures are put in place to ensure that exposure to asbestos is prevented, so far as is reasonably practicable.”
Fears of asbestos exposure at SaTH were first raised by a project manager in the estates department, Les Small, and he won £50,000 in damages at a tribunal after he was unlawfully fired for raising his fears.
A SaTH spokesperson said that whilst asbestos-related policies and procedures were in place, “they were not always being followed” and there was now a “much more robust approach across the trust.”