Shefford veterinary firm fined after workers exposed to harmful chemotherapy drugs

Three Bassingbourn men have been charged in connection with a series of sexual assaults in Cambridge

Three Bassingbourn men have been charged in connection with a series of sexual assaults in Cambridge. - Credit: Archant

A Shefford veterinary firm has been fined after workers were exposed to substances found in animal chemotherapy drugs which can potentially cause cancer.

Davies Veterinary Specialists Limited, based at Shefford Business Centre in Hitchin Road, pleaded guilty to breaching a Health and Safety Act and was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £50,378 in costs.

Luton Crown Court heard yesterday that 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 in Higham Gobion, near Shillington.

The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after it emerged the fume cabinet used for animal chemotherapy drug preparation had been used incorrectly over the period from July 2007 until September 2011.

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.”

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The firm was reported to HSE in September 2011 after one of the vets believed that the fume cabinet was unsuitable.

An HSE investigation found there was no system in place to prevent or reduce the risk of exposure to employees, inadequate cleaning procedures and that the fume cupboard had not been maintained for many years.

The report also found that staff had not been given any safety training in the correct use of the fume cupboard.