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Written by
on 21 January 2013

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An NHS Trust has been fined after several employees were exposed to a strain of TB that is potentially deadly. The staff at Royale Brompton and Harefield Trust were exposed to the risk when a test vial smashed in a laboratory. The incident occurred in January 2011 and the Health and Safety Executive investigated to find several issues. These included:

  • Lack of adequate risk assessments for working with TB
  • No safe system of work due to the missing risk assessment
  • Management didn’t understand critical control measures
  • The employees responsible for health and safety in the laboratory didn’t have the right training
  • Employees didn’t know what to do in an emergency
  • Poor emergency procedures in place

The case was heard at Westminster Crown Court on January 16 2013. They heard that there were three employees in the laboratory when the vial containing TB was dropped. A fourth person was also put at risk when they helped to clean up the laboratory the next day. No one was infected with TB however, the HSE said that the Trust should have had systems in place to prevent incidents such as this and have control measures in place.

Previous Problems Were Identified

In 2002 the same laboratory was given an enforcement notice by the HSE as the space was not able to be sealed for the purpose of disinfection. The Trust resolved these issues but overtime their health and safety management has lapsed.  They were fined £12,500 after pleading guilty for breaching a section of the Health and Safety at Work Act and must pay £25,000 in costs.

The TB in the test vial was a multi-drug resistant strain. There are practices in place for handling this bacterium but they weren’t implemented putting employees at extreme risk. When working with any chemicals, bacteria or hazardous substances it is essential to have strong health and safety management in place.  The welfare of your employees and the public has to be considered at all times and in all eventualities.

Hazardous Substances need to be managed

Health and safety consultants can help to ensure your workplace and systems of work are suitable and adequate. One of the health and safety services to consider is the audit. The consultants come to your workplace and evaluate your current health and safety systems. If any issues are discovered these can be targeted and improved to help you avoid serious incidents and prosecution from the HSE. Phone us on 0800 1488 677 for more information.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.