A number of workers and Royal Navy personnel were exposed to asbestos after pipes lined with the dangerous material were left on a roadside before being put in an open skip and transferred to a salvage yard.

The pipes, lined with asbestos insulation, were removed from HMS Sultan naval training base in Gosport as part of works to replace a hot water system.

The Magistrates’ Court was told that a Southampton-based company responsible for the works as the main contractor for the HMS Sultan site had contracted a Hertfordshire-based contractor to remove the pipes and associated materials, who in turn employed a local welding firm and pipe fitter to undertake the work.

Magistrates heard that the old pipes were stacked by the side of the road at the base before they were placed in an open metal recycling skip and transferred to a private salvage yard. The salvage firm contacted the HSE after discovering their premises was contaminated with asbestos from the pipes.

The HSE investigation identified that the main contractor and sub contractor had failed to identify the presence of asbestos in the pipes as a result of inaccurate assumptions and failures to undertake thorough checks and surveys.

HSE also established that employees from both companies, as well as workers from the salvage yard, the welder and pipe fitter sub-contracted plus anyone in the vicinity of the contaminated pipes, including passing Navy personnel, could justly be deemed ’at risk’ to asbestos exposure.

The insulation material should have been properly identified and safely removed and disposed of by a licensed asbestos removal specialist.

The Hertfordshire based sub contractor was fined a total of £18,000 and ordered to pay £4,291 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

The Main contractor in Southampton, was fined £12,000 with costs of £5,196 after also pleading guilty to a single breach of the same legislation.