28 Sep 2011
Retail giant Marks & Spencer has been fined £1 million for failing to protect customers, staff and workers from potential exposure to asbestos during refurbishment at one of its stores.
The management was found to have been more concerned about the works being “unsightly” and “interfering with the shopping experience” of customers than the cancer-causing material.
It was told by Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC that the company, which he described as a “household name”, was more interested in making profits out of its Reading store than properly planning for the removal of asbestos.
He said the “tension” between health and safety and profit had caused the “lamentable problems” at Reading which had led to ceiling dust possibly containing asbestos falling to the shop floor when it was open.
“The response from Marks & Spencer was, in effect, to turn a blind eye to what was happening … It was already costing the company too much money,” the judge told Bournemouth Crown Court.
M&S was also ordered to pay £600,000 in prosecution costs.
Styles & Wood Limited was fined £100,000, and £40,000 in costs, for its breaches.
Willmott Dixon was fined £50,000, and £75,000 costs, because it should have monitored the asbestos situation at the Bournemouth store but the situation was not as bad there as at Reading.
PA Realisations Ltd (formerly Pectel Ltd) was fined a nominal £200 because the company is insolvent.
Copyright Press Association 2011