Two companies have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for exposing workers to Asbestos whilst they undertook extensive boiler renovations in houses owned by a social landlord in North Devon.

Two employees of a plumbing and heating contractor were allowed to carry out the removal of a back boiler and to drill a wall panel at a house, after the company instructed them to start work, despite having not received an asbestos survey from the social landlord.

The incident, which occurred in September 2012, was investigated by the HSE and has lead to the prosecution of North Devon Homes for safety failings at Barnstaple Magistrates Court.

The court heard that the contractor had requested asbestos survey information on the properties, but had decided to go ahead without having carried out a sufficient assessment of work liable to disturb asbestos.

Rather than waiting for the Asbestos survey information, the contractors had relied on information about asbestos on the social housing landlords’ website for contractors, but this information was not specific to each property being worked on and was incomplete or misleading.

As a result, asbestos insulation board (AIB) was disturbed and the workers were exposed, when fillets of a fire surround were moved, an AIB panel above a door was drilled and another AIB panel moved. Residents in the affected properties, which were all being refurbished, had been vacated during remedial works to remove asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

The social housing landlord pleaded guilty to a breach of Construction (Design Management) Regulations and was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £650.

The plumbing and heating company pleaded guilty to two breaches of Control of Asbestos Regulations and was fined £1,500 with £642 costs.