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Maintenance staff at The Christie hospital exposed to asbestos

A report has found that one of the leading cancer hospitals in Europe failed to maintain adequate health and safety standards. According to a BBC report, the Christie hospital in Manchester faced accusations by workers’ union Unite, about the safety of 20 maintenance staff exposed to asbestos over a number of years.

The hospital has also been accused of endangering the health and safety of patients and visitors. Hospital officials admit to the fact that health and safety standards may not have been met in the past, but strongly deny that anyone apart from the maintenance staff has been exposed to asbestos.

Official report into the issue

The Manchester Evening News reports that at the beginning of 2014, the hospital commissioned an official report from Asbestos Contracting Ltd (ACL), who are local authority approved asbestos removers. The results showed that, amongst other issues, the Control of Asbestos Regulations had not been complied with.

It was also discovered that the hospital trust had been aware of the presence of asbestos on-site at Christie’s for more than 10 years.

“Insufficient procedures to manage asbestos”

This was one of the findings reported by ACL. With asbestos known to be present around the site, failure to maintain an accurate risk register was also highlighted, along with historic asbestos removal procedures being deemed “sub-standard.”

The main concern for Unite, however, appears to be the exposure to asbestos suffered by maintenance workers, particularly when it was alleged that the hospital knew about the substance being present in the area in which they were working.

Keith Hutson, a Unite regional officer commented:

“It is appalling that these workers have been exposed to the cancer-causing substance, especially as they were exposed in the world-renowned cancer hospital.”

Christie Hospital Foundation Trust has taken steps to improve health and safety standards at the site, with disciplinary action being taken against some members of staff.

Will employees receive compensation for this breach of asbestos regulations?

The National Health Service Litigation Authority, who manages negligence claims against the NHS, rejected a claim for compensation by one worker on the grounds that there was no evidence of specific injury or poor health.

The Trust has been working with external advisors in an attempt to improve health and safety standards at the hospital, and stated that the Health and Safety Executive “accepted the Trust has made good progress.”

Asbestos found in many UK hospitals

Hospitals are just one of the types of public building where asbestos was widely used. Its fire-resistant and insulating qualities meant that it was widely used to lag pipes, and in the manufacture of fire doors.

Historic asbestos exposure in hospitals has led to trainee and qualified medical staff becoming victims of mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos awareness online courses

Thanks to the availability of asbestos training courses, awareness of the dangers posed by asbestos is becoming more widespread. It’s not just an historic problem – anyone working on buildings constructed prior to 1999, are at risk of inhaling lethal asbestos dust and fibres. UKATA online training offers tradespeople the knowledge they need to stay safe, and an HSE asbestos certificate is downloadable at the end of every course.