A hospital trust in the north-east of England has been hit with a fine after it was found to have exposed its workers to asbestos at one of its sites.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it found it had allowed staff to come into contact with the deadly material. The offence took place at Sunderland Eye Infirmary on Queen Alexandra Road, where contractors were tasked with drilling through door surrounds in order to install cables.
However, concerns were soon raised about the doors and it was found that the surrounds were made of asbestos insulating board.
The HSE conducted a thorough investigation and discovered that an asbestos survey had been carried out by the trust. This showed that asbestos was clearly present in the door surrounds, but despite this information, the health bosses did not inform the contractors. Indeed, no information about the location or state of asbestos was passed on.
HSE inspector Shuna Rank said: "As a result, workers drilled through the asbestos-containing material, potentially exposing themselves, hospital staff and members of the public to dangerous fibres. There need to be systems in place to ensure that all workers are aware of where asbestos is if their work is likely to bring them into contact with asbestos-containing materials."
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 (9)(c)(i) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. It was fined £3,000 during a recent court appearance and told it must also pay in excess of £4,500 in costs.
Not only must firms make staff aware of any asbestos threats they have identified, they should kit them out in adequate clothing and with the right equipment. This can include items such as respirators.
The HSE's figures show asbestos is the most common cause of work-related deaths in the UK each year, emphasising how it should be treated with extreme caution and care in all cases.