Hospital maintenance staff ‘exposed’ to asbestos

Some maintenance staff at a leading cancer hospital were “unknowingly exposed” to airborne asbestos levels above safety standards, a report says.

The BBC has reported that the Christie hospital in Manchester admitted “historically [it] may not have met the required health and safety standards”.

They stressed that there was “no evidence” patients, visitors and non-maintenance staff were put at risk.

The union Unite said it thought about 20 workers were exposed to asbestos.

The independent review, which was commissioned by the specialist cancer hospital, was carried out by Asbestos Contracting Limited (ACL) and completed in August when they found that:

  • The Christie had failed to comply with Control of Asbestos Regulations
  • Asbestos registers – to monitor the material in hospital buildings – were inaccurate, out of date and rarely used
  • Historically, there had been sub-standard asbestos removal works
  • Procedures to manage asbestos risks were insufficient
  • Some maintenance staff were unknowingly exposed to airborne asbestos fibre levels above control limits

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said:

“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.”

‘No evidence of ill health’

A spokesman from the Christie said there was “no reason to believe that anyone has been harmed by our historic management of asbestos in non-patient areas such as plant rooms and other maintenance areas”.

He added the hospital had addressed the concerns of maintenance staff “with the exception of their demand for generous compensation on an ex-gracia basis”.

“We have contacted the NHS Litigation Authority, which has advised that we cannot pay compensation to individuals where there is no evidence of recognised injury or ill-health.”

The hospital had been working with independent advisors over the past 18 months to improve health and safety standards, he said, adding the Health and Safety Executive had “accepted the Trust has made good progress”.