Companies whose workers are exposed to asbestos will be penalised, as will those who fail to provide their staff with "suitable asbestos awareness training" to their employees.

That is the warning from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued in the wake of a prosecution of a company that had failed to ensure that its employees had received "adequate information, instruction and training".

Speaking after the case against Scriven Electrical Contractors Ltd of Cornwallis Road, West Bromwich, HSE inspector John Healy said that the company should have known about the dangers.

Furthermore, he said they should have been aware of the legal requirement to provide "sufficient training to protect employees".

Mr Healy said: "Those responsible for employees ordinarily have a legal duty to protect their health and safety but, in the case of asbestos those involved in building or refurbishment must know that any disturbance of such a dangerous material should only be completed by trained workers."

Chair of the HSE, Judith Hackitt, praised the Health and Safety Offences Act 2008 which came into force on January 16th and gives lower courts powers to impose tougher penalties on those who commit health and safety offences.