Diseases laboratory prosecuted

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE PUBLIC body responsible for controlling the spread of infectious diseases in Britain is being prosecuted after an outbreak of typhoid in one of its laboratories, writes Tim Kelsey.

The Health and Safety Executive confirmed yesterday it is pressing criminal charges against the Public Health Laboratory Service Board under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988.

The PHLS is charged with failing to make a suitable assessment of risks to health from work with the typhoid bacteria. A laboratory worker was infected with the bacteria, which causes severe fever and can be fatal.

A spokesman for the executive refused to say whether a precedent existed for the case.

The PHLS is also charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of employees by not immunising them against Salmonella typhi, the bacteria responsible for typhoid. It is also alleged that the PHLS did not give employees adequate information or training on use of the bacteria. The trial should start on Friday at Manchester magistrates' court. At that level the fine if convicted would be not more than 25,000 pounds.