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Scottish Health Board fined for Negligent Asbestos Exposure.

A Scottish health board has recently been fined for a health and safety failing which lead to several workers being exposed to the dangerous substance over a period of 7 seven years.

The Sheriff Court in Glasgow held that the Greater Glasgow Health Board had failed to properly manage the risk of exposure to the deadly substance in a ground floor neurology plant room at Glasgow Southern General Hospital.

The Board was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 4(10)(b) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

The court heard that three surveys had been carried out in the room dating back to as early as 2004 to assess the risk of possible ‘asbestos containing materials’ (ACMs) being located within walls and ceilings.   All three surveys identified that the ceiling material carried a high risk and the recommendation was immediate removal.   No action was taken on the part of the health board.   Following plans to fit electrical installations in the room some years later damaged asbestos containing materials were found within the ceiling and background monitoring tests showed a high level of air contamination.

The HSE investigation found that the health board had taken no action in relation to the ACM in the ceiling since the original surveys. The area had been allowed to become extensively contaminated as a result of the health board’s failure to remove the substance and environmentally clean the area.

This recent example of failure to correctly manage the risks posed by ACMs highlights that health and safety issues relating to asbestos in the workplace are not simply a historical problem.   Admissions to Scottish hospitals for asbestos related conditions have increased by nearly one third in the last decade.   It is also widely accepted that given the delay in the presentation of symptoms, the number of new cases presenting has not yet peaked.  

People exposed to asbestos can suffer from a number of conditions, from pleural plaques; a scaring of the tissue of the lungs which is asymptomatic may not be serious to health, to mesothelioma an aggressive and incurable form of lung cancer.   It is accordingly essential that every effort is continued to be made to educate the public of the dangers of asbestos exposure.

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