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Two firms have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after workers on a residential boiler renovation project were exposed to asbestos.

Barnstaple Magistrates Court heard that two workers of Pilkington Plumbing and Heating Ltd removed the back of a boiler and drilled through a wall panel in a house without an asbestos survey being received.

Pilkington had requested the survey from the owner of the houses, North Devon Homes, but decided to carry on with the work before it was handed over.

In the place of this essential assessment, the court heard, the workers relied on the Contractors Information area given by North Devon Homes on its website. This was found to be too general and incomplete or misleading by the HSE.

The removal of the back of the boiler and the drilling subsequently caused asbestos insulation board (AIB) to be disturbed. Exposure to the workers occurred when they removed fire surround fillets, drilled one AIB panel and moved another without suitable workwear for dealing with asbestos.

Pleading guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations, Pilkington Plumbing and Heating Ltd was handed a fine of £1,500 with a further demand for £642 costs.

Also pleading guilty to breaching the Construction (Design Management) Regulations, North Devon Homes Ltd was fined £1,000 and handed costs of £650.

The HSE inspector on the case, Barry Trudgian, said after the rulings:

“As a result of North Devon Homes’ failure […] and Pilkington not waiting for the asbestos details before starting work, two workers have been needlessly exposed.”

He went on to say that the September 2012 incident could have been avoided.

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