The HSE continues to be active around the issue of asbestos.

Recently the Cwm Taf Health Board, in Wales, was given until the end of February 2011 to ensure it has an adequate asbestos management procedure in place. The HSE issued the health board with three improvement notices.  

This example is by no means an isolated incident of a health body being forced to deal with its asbestos management problems. Other recent examples of the HSE’s activity in this area are:  

  • Ysbyty Glan Clwyd hospital, which had to shut six operating theatres for 14 months in order to remove asbestos;
  • NHS Wiltshire in 2010 was required to conduct a more thorough asbestos survey before commencing renovation works, despite having had a recent survey completed.

The potential consequence for failure to comply with an improvement notice or the underlying regulations could be a prosecution and an unlimited fine. Individuals may also find themselves prosecuted personally for their role. The HSE have in the past prosecuted at least three NHS trusts over incidents that led to asbestos exposure.  

The responsibilities of those responsible for non-domestic premises are clearly set out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. These regulations require much more than an asbestos register. NHS organisations need to ensure that there is a management plan in place that identifies all known or presumed asbestos and will prevent staff and contractors from disturbing asbestos when using buildings and particularly when undertaking any work on the fabric itself.  

Don’t wait for the HSE’s next visit. Review your asbestos compliance now.