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Health chiefs fined over children’s hospital asbestos

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 yesterday that the Greater Glasgow Health Board had failed to properly manage the asbestos risk in a basement plant room of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow.

The court heard that a survey in February 2009 had identified the presence of asbestos-containing materials in various locations within the plant room and noted that they were in good condition and presented a low risk.

The survey recommended the materials be labelled and their condition monitored so any future deterioration could be managed.

Another survey in January 2011, prior to the installation of a new MRI scanner at the hospital, found that some of the materials were in a poor condition and now posed a high risk, recommending removal and environmental cleaning of the area.

The matter was reported to the Health and Safety Executive after asbestos swab samples came back positive and the room was sealed off.

An investigation by the HSE found that the health board had taken no action since the 2009 survey to monitor the materials within the plant room, with no labelling of materials and no maintenance action carried out.

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 fibres in the plant room when carrying out maintenance work.

The health board pleaded guilty to Regulation 4(10) of Asbestos Regulations and was fined £6,000.

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.”

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