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Edi Uni fined £10,000 for exposing lab workers to dangerous substances

Researchers were left at risk of suffering adverse health effects

The University of Edinburgh has been fined £10,000 for exposing lab workers to dangerous substances.

The university has been found by the Edinburgh Sheriff Court to have breached safety requirements, leaving lab workers exposed to harmful substances.

The University's failings left two animal research workers, who were already sensitised to laboratory animal allergens (LAA), at risk of suffering from adverse health effects after having been exposed to LAA.

LAA are considered to be one of the top causes of occupational asthma, and can lead to irreversible allergic reactions, especially where an individual is already sensitised.

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The two lab workers began work at the Univeristy in 2003, and had both declared they were already allergic to rats at the time. Over the years working at Edinburgh, they were exposed to various levels of LAA having had to work with rats.

The Sheriff Court found that the University had breached Sections 2 and Section 33 (1) (a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974, after having failed to carry out sufficient risk assessments of the exposure to LAA.

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Health, Safety and Environment inspector Susan Donnelly said: 'This was a case of the University completely failing to grasp the importance of risk-based health surveillance.

'If the University had implemented a system of risk-based health surveillance, it would have ensured that an Occupational Health Management system was in place which would monitor worker’s fitness for work. Such systems can prevent an employee’s health condition becoming severe and life altering.'

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A spokesman from the University of Edinburgh said: 'The University takes matters relating to health and safety in its large and diverse estate extremely seriously.

'The safety and wellbeing of our entire University community – students, staff and visitors – is of paramount importance and we have a wide range of policies and procedures in place to ensure that we meet the highest standards in this regard.

'If ever there are any issues around health and safety within the University, we work as swiftly as possible to address them, as we have done in this case, and regularly monitor and review our practices to ensure that our high standards are maintained.'