£11,000 fine after workers at City hospital potentially exposed to banned material
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has been fined £10,000 plus £1,750 costs for health and safety breaches involving asbestos at the City hospital.
The trust was fined after previously pleading guilty to three breaches of regulations.
The case followed an incident on 14 January 2011, when two construction workers were potentially exposed to asbestos while repairing a floor. The work involved the removal of a section of a ceiling in order to gain access to the floor above. The ceiling was found to be constructed of asbestos insulation board (AIB), a material commonly used in many buildings before it was banned in 1999.
This case highlights the importance of not only having accurate and up-to-date asbestos surveys carried out, but also ensuring that this information is given to anyone who carries out work on premises which are known to contain asbestos
An investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) into the incident and revealed that the trust had carried out asbestos surveys of its buildings and the City hospital was known to contain asbestos, but the information was not passed on to the maintenance contractors.
A number of staff in key roles within the trust were also not trained in the management of asbestos.
"This case highlights the importance of not only having accurate and up-to-date asbestos surveys carried out, but also ensuring that this information is given to anyone who carries out work on premises which are known to contain asbestos," said Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) investigating inspector, Hugh Moss.
"There is no such thing as a safe level of asbestos and cases like this should serve to remind tradesmen and those involved in maintenance activities that asbestos remains a significant danger to their health".
A spokesman at Belfast Health Trust said: “Like many organisations we have to actively manage the asbestos that was used in the construction of older buildings.
"We have considerable expertise in this and it is unfortunate that on this occasion our arrangements broke down.
"This was a localised incident and in no way put patients or the public at risk. We will remain focused on managing all health and safety risks in our estates."
The case comes after the HSENI revealed that health bosses at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children could face criminal charges over the presence of asbestos. This comes after an incident in 2011 involving asbestos in a basement area not accessible to the public. It has since sent a file to the Public Prosecution Service, which will decide whether to take things further.