Safety failings at an NHS Trust may have exposed workers to asbestos fibres, magistrates have been told.
Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard how the potentially-deadly fibres were detected in the basement of the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital NHS Trust offices at Derwent House in January 2013.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the Trust. Magistrates were told that a survey in 2006 recommended that the basement should be assessed to see if it contained asbestos and what condition the substance was in.
The NHS Trust did not act on the recommendations and the HSE discovered that workers needing access to patient records often went down to the basement, the court heard.
The health and safety manager working for the Trust spotted that the doors on a goods lift that was no longer in use in the basement had been damaged. They had asbestos in them, meaning anyone going down there could have been exposed to the dangerous material, the court was told.
Magistrates heard that a survey confirmed the presence of asbestos fibres in various areas in the basement.
After admitting two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 26 February, the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital NHS Trust, based on Prescot Street in Liverpool, was ordered to pay a fine of £10,000 and a further £696 towards the cost of the prosecution.
Following the conclusion of the case Imran Siddiqui HSE inspector said breathing in asbestos fibres is the main single cause of work-related deaths in Britain, killing 4,000 people a year.
He stressed that all organisations should take asbestos risks very seriously. It was often used in building projects between the 50s and the 70s and is at its most dangerous when damaged or broken up as it released fibres into the air which workers breathe in, he said.
Mr Siddiqui said the fibres can cause several diseases including lung cancer and many people don’t know they have any problems until sometimes decades later.
Source: Health and Safety Executive