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Firm fined £35,000 after staff exposed to harmful drugs

Employees of Davies Veterinary Services, including vets, nurses and support staff, were potentially exposed to the drugs as they prepared medicines to treat animals with cancer at the firm’s premises at Manor Farm Business Park on Higham Road in Higham Gobion. 

The company, based in Shefford, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after it emerged the fume cabinet used for animal chemotherapy drug preparation was not used in the way it was designed for.  T

his meant that employees had potentially been exposed to substances that are harmful to human health and can cause cancer. 

Luton Crown Court heard that a dangerous occurrence was reported to HSE in September 2011 after one of the vets believed that the fume cabinet was unsuitable. 

The investigation also found that there was no system of work in place to prevent or reduce the risk of exposure to employees, that there had been no maintenance of the fume cupboard for many years and the cleaning procedures were inadequate. 

Staff had not been given any safety training in the safe use of the fume cupboard, and there was inadequate personal protective equipment and no monitoring systems. 

This meant that over a period of over four years, from July 2007 until September 2011, staff working at the practice could have been exposed to the potentially harmful drugs. 

Davies Veterinary Services Limited, of Shefford Business Centre, Hitchin Road, Shefford, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £50,378 in costs. 

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Emma Page said: “The chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer in animals can cause cancer in humans and harm unborn babies. 

“The company had no arrangements in place to ensure employees could work safely when preparing these drugs. Around 125 people work at the practice, of which a small number would have been at risk of developing cancer. 

“Simple measures, such as an appropriately designed, maintained and serviced fume cabinet, protective equipment adequate cleaning procedures and proper training, would have prevented exposure.”