Between April 2000 and December 2011, the estates team at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust was maintaining buildings at Watford General Hospital, Hemel Hempstead Hospital and St Albans Hospital without knowing that asbestos was present or being trained to identify and control exposure.
The estates team, whose work is to carry out small repairs and maintenance projects where external contractors are not needed, could have disturbed asbestos fibres in the course of a job, but would have had no way of knowing or of protecting themselves.
St Albans Crown Court was told that over the 11-year period, the Trust had identified some of the asbestos materials at their sites but did not have a management or monitoring plan in place to control the risks associated with the deadly fibre.
It was only when additional surveys were carried out in December 2011 that the Trust realised more asbestos was present at all three hospitals than initially identified. Neither the newly identified asbestos nor the material that had originally been identified were being managed. The Trust alerted the HSE, which investigated and brought a prosecution for health and safety breaches against the Trust.
The court heard the NHS Trust immediately put control measures in place after the survey results came back. Unfortunately, the extended lack of awareness reiterated that it had caused workers to potentially be exposed over a significant period of time, which constituted a major failure on its part.
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, of Vicarage Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, was fined £55,000 and ordered to pay £ 34,078 in costs after pleading guilty to four breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.