Health and safety fine of £22,000 for hospital guilty of exposing employee to hazardous chemicals

A hospital trust has been fined £22,000 after it allowed an employee to become exposed to a dangerous chemical while cleaning – despite no immediate harm caused to the individual.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS trust, based in Grantham, was yesterday fined £18,500 and ordered to pay full costs of £3,500 by Boston Magistrates Court, after it was revealed a Lincolnshire woman had been cleaning an X-ray film processor for several years without proper safety precautions, exposing her to gluteraldehyde, a chemical which can cause skin and respiratory problems.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which inspected the Pilgrim Hospital, said the trust breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Inspector Jo Anderson said: “The trust placed the health of one its workers at risk by failing to properly identify the risk of exposure and putting appropriate controls in place. In fact, the risk was only identified when HSE staff visited the hospital and banned the use of the film processor until steps were taken to reduce the exposure risks.”

Anderson urged all employers to make sure employees working with hazardous chemicals are given appropriate training and protection.

“This should include non-routine work, such as cleaning, maintenance and out-of-hours work. Employees should always be made fully aware of precautions to prevent this type of exposure, which could have resulted in long-term health problems for the employee,” she said.

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