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Uni in court after research workers exposed to allergens

The University of Edinburgh has been accused of “completely failing to grasp the importance of risk-based health surveillance,” by an HSE inspector after two researchers were exposed to rodents, despite being allergic.

Image credit | HSE

Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told how the researchers both began work at the University of Edinburgh in 2003 and both declared that they were already allergic to rodents at the time. Over the years both continued to work with rats and were exposed to various levels of LAA, a respiratory sensitiser and a substance hazardous to health.


“This was a case of the university completely failing to grasp the importance of risk-based health surveillance," said HSE inspector Susan Donnelly.

HSE investigators found that the university failed to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments of the exposure to LAA, particularly when it was known that the research workers were already sensitised to LAA. It failed to ensure suitable health surveillance was carried out at regular intervals and that sufficient information, instruction, supervision and training was provided to the research workers.

The University of Edinburgh pleaded guilty to breaching s 2 and s 33 (1) (a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £10,000.

“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," added Donnelly. "Such systems can prevent an employee’s health condition becoming severe and life altering."


Kellie is a freelance writer and former online editor of the Health and Safety at Work website.

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