A firm has been fined for putting almost 200 workers at risk from asbestos after mistakes were made whilst installing fire safety equipment.

According to hvnplus.co.uk, two subcontractors who were hired to install fire alarms at glass firm Romag in Consett triggered the outbreak of asbestos when they drilled into an insulation panel full of it.

The installers were told that the building was asbestos free and continued to use a vacuum cleaner – that was utilised to clean up debris from the panel – around the rest of the building, which only spread the exposure.

Despite the fact the firm was made aware of the asbestos the following day, Romag did nothing for the next nine days and ignored advice from its safety advisors; who suggested the area needed to be sealed off and an air clearance test should take place.

As a result, 16 visitors and 180 workers were exposed to the material. The firm pleaded guilty and was fined £20,000. They must also pay an extra £12,638 in costs, reports hse.gov.uk.

The case shows that although fire safety measures are important, the company should be aware if there is asbestos in the building already and ensure that the equipment is being installed properly.

Paul Miller, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, said the company needlessly put the health of its workers at risk.

“Any company that intends to do work to the fabric of a property built prior to the year 2000 must ensure they have taken all reasonable steps to check whether asbestos is present before any work starts,” he said. “That information must be then shared with anyone involved in the proposed work.”