A heating, plumbing and maintenance company from Wokingham was fined after exposing two subcontractors to asbestos fibres at Reading University.

Andrew Lloyd and Steve Taylor unwittingly drilled through a sprayed asbestos ceiling coating while carrying out an upgrade on a room at the university, believing all asbestos material had been removed by specialist contractors.

Gardner Mechanical Services failed to ensure the asbestos was removed from the site before work started and, though aware of its presence, did not communicate this to the two men.

The company had subcontracted the work to a Newbury-based firm, which in turn subcontracted the self-employed subcontractors.

Gardner Mechanical Services Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. Reading Magistrates court fined the company £28,000 and ordered it to pay £22,631 in costs, on 8 October.

HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said: "This case highlights the importance of effective planning when addressing risks in construction, particularly in refurbishment, where there is a higher risk of coming into contact with asbestos.

"Gardner Mechanical Services had a clear duty of care to relay important information to its subcontractors in order to prevent their exposure to asbestos, but this simply did not happen.

"As a result of poor planning on the part of GMS, two men were exposed to high levels of asbestos fibres, leaving them at risk of contracting serious diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis of the lungs."