Two firms have been fined after admitting exposing workers to asbestos during a refurbishment project in Derby, as reported by the Derby Telegraph.

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court heard how untrained labourers were allowed to remove asbestos insulating board ceiling panels in a store room in a building in St Peter’s Churchyard.

The building was being converted from offices to apartments.

The court heard that before work took place, an asbestos refurbishment survey indicated that the lower ground floor store room contained an asbestos ceiling. But in January last year, during the refurbishment, the ceiling was accidentally damaged and the site manager instructed two young labourers to remove approximately four to six square metres of it.

The workers were involved in converting offices in St Peter's Churchyard into apartments
The workers were involved in converting offices in St Peter’s Churchyard into apartments

According to the HSE, the work should have been completed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor under fully controlled conditions. Its investigation found that suitable asbestos control measures were not in place and the workers involved were not trained in asbestos removal.

A licensed asbestos removal contractor was eventually brought in to clean the area after the HSE became involved.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and received fines totalling over £30,000 in addition to being given a community order to carry out 120 hours’ unpaid work.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by the duty holders simply carrying out correct asbestos control measures and safe working practices.

“Companies and individual site managers should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action including prosecution against those that fall below the required standard for managing asbestos containing materials during refurbishment work.

“Most types of asbestos-containing material work require a licensed removal contractor with suitably trained and licensed workers.”