Two construction companies have been fined £112,000 after work on a school resulted in their sub-contractors being exposed to asbestos fibres.

Oakwood Junior school in Derby was undergoing refurbishment work during the school holidays in 2016, Derby Crown Court heard.

Two subcontractors started to remove tiles, unaware that they contained asbestos, from a suspended ceiling in a storage room which had a suspended ceiling.

A licensed asbestos removal company working on site alerted management to the situation and action was taken to stop the work and deal with the contamination.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation and came to the conclusion that Ashe Construction Limited, the main contractor, had failed to effectively plan, manage and monitor the work to prevent the accidental removal of the asbestos containing tiles.

The court heard that the company also failed to effectively communicate information about the asbestos, leaving the storage room open without barriers or signage warning of asbestos. The work was not then suitably managed or monitored to ensure that nobody came into contact with the asbestos.

Cladceil Limited, a contractor appointed by Ashe to carry out the suspended ceiling removal work, also failed to effectively plan, manage and monitor the work, according to the HSE.

The company appointed a subcontractor to remove the suspended ceilings on its behalf but provided only a generic risk assessment and method statement which failed to identify important information, including the asbestos risk.

Hitchin-based Ashe Construction pleaded guilty to breaching Construction Design and Management (CDM) and safety regulations and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £47,184.48

Cladceil Limited, of Nottingham, pleaded guilty to breaching CDM regulations and was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £47,184.48.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said: “The exposure to asbestos could so easily have been avoided if the two companies involved had put sufficient effort into planning, managing and monitoring the ceiling tile removal work.

“HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”