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Health board rapped for asbestos failure

A Scottish health board has been fined after workers were put at risk of inhaling asbestos over a seven-year period.

Glasgow Sheriff Court was told that Greater Glasgow Health Board failed to properly manage the risks posed by the presence of asbestos on the ground floor of a neurology plant and a switch room at the city's Southern General Hospital.

The gallery heard three asbestos surveys had taken place in the two rooms and in all three ceilings were identified as being of "high risk", with recommendations centering around an extensive removal and environmental cleaning programme.

However, this never took place and in March 2011 a project to wire through new appliances to the rooms led to asbestos-containing debris falling to the ground. 

The area was sealed off and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) informed, as is standard practice in these types of incidents. 

Investigations began immediately and inspectors concluded the rooms were "extensively contaminated" by asbestos and this was caused by insufficient monitoring and the board's failure to take action on three separate reports.

As a result of this, a HSE report states, a number of employees at the health board, as well as outside contractors, have been exposed to harmful asbestos fibres over a seven year period.

This is more than enough time for a deadly lung condition like mesothelioma, which is incurable, to develop and for its part in the asbestos failures, Greater Glasgow Health Board was successfully prosecuted by the HSE.

Bosses at the board decided to plead guilty to a single breach of Regulation 4(10)(b) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and this led to a £10,000 fine.

After the trial finished, HSE inspector Aileen Jardine said: "[Greater] 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 over a period of several years were exposed to harmful fibres."

By Chris Stevenson