West Herts Hospitals Trust pleads guilty to asbestos failings.

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, made up of Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, pleaded guilty to contravening a health and safety regulation at Watford Magistrates’ Court last Friday.

One charge was for an employer breach, between April 1, 2000 and December 6, 2011, for failing to discharge the duty to which it is subject to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees, including members of the estates teams exposed to asbestos.

There were three further counts of contravening a health and safety regulation: for failing to have a written plan and take measures for managing the risk from asbestos, or give adequate information, instruction and training to employees likely to be exposed to the fibres between November 12, 2006 and December 6, 2011, at Watford, St Albans and Hemel hospitals.

The fifth offence that the trust pleaded guilty to was for failing to take measures necessary to reduce the exposure of its employees to asbestos to the lowest level reasonably practicable.

After the trust appeared in court Dr Mike Van Der Watt, medical director, said the case has now been referred to the Crown Court for sentencing.

He added: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage other than to say that we have made significant changes to the way we manage and control asbestos across our hospitals, ensuring the risk of exposure to our staff and patients is to the lowest reasonable level.

“In addition we have invested heavily in the safe removal of asbestos across all three sites.”

The trust, created in 2000, is one of the largest employers locally with around 4,500 staff and volunteers. Its three hospitals see about 600,000 patients a year.