The chief executive of West Herts Hospitals Trust has apologised after the organisation which runs Watford General, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans Hospitals was fined for putting its staff at risk of exposure to asbestos. Samantha Jones, Chief Executive, said: “Today, the Trust received sentence for the five offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to which we pleaded guilty in June this year. The offences relate to the management of asbestos at our three hospital sites over a period in excess of ten years dating from the creation of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust in 2000. “Whilst the charges concern events which pre-date my arrival at the Trust, I take full responsibility on behalf of the Trust Board for the failures which led to the prosecution. “Asbestos is common in buildings of the age of our hospitals, but the court found that the Trust had not taken its responsibilities as seriously as it should have done in relation to the safe management of asbestos, and for that I apologise. “Importantly, we have made significant changes in recent years to the way we manage and control asbestos across our hospitals, ensuring the risk of exposure is at the lowest possible level. This includes:
- Undertaking new and detailed surveys to show where the asbestos is on our sites;
- Implementing dedicated asbestos management plans for each hospital and ensuring they are shared with relevant staff and contractors;
- Improved training for appropriate staff about the risks relating to asbestos and a detailed induction for all contractors;
- Appointing a dedicated senior manager who has overall responsibility for the control and management of asbestos at our hospitals;
- Safely removing a significant amount of asbestos.
“We have invested heavily in the safe removal and management of asbestos across all three sites. Since 2012, we have spent almost £1.6 million and we plan to spend a further £500,000 over the course of this year. “The sentence received was a fine of £55,000 and an order to pay the Health and Safety Executive’s costs of £34,078.69.”