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Marks and Spencer and contractors fined more than £1.15m

Marks and Spencer and contractors including Willmott Dixon and Styles & Wood have been fined for putting members of the public, staff and construction workers at risk of exposure to asbestos.

Marks and Spencer was fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £600,000 while Willmott Dixon was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £75,000. Willmott Dixon is applying for permission to appeal against conviction.

Styles and Wood was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000 while asbestos removal firm PA Realisations (formerly Pectel Ltd), which has since gone into administration, was fined £200.

During a three month trial which ended in July 2011, Winchester Crown Court heard construction workers at Reading and Bournemouth stores removed asbestos-containing materials that were present in the ceiling tiles and elsewhere.

The court heard that Marks and Spencer did not allocate sufficient time and space for the removal of asbestos-containing materials at the Reading store.

The contractors had to work overnight in enclosures on the shop floor, with the aim of completing small areas of asbestos removal before the shop opened to the public each day.

Styles & Wood, the principal contractor at the Reading store, admitted that it should not have permitted a method of asbestos removal which did not allow for adequate sealing of the ceiling void, which resulted in risks to contractors on site.

The principal contractor at the Bournemouth store, Wilmott Dixon Construction Ltd, failed to plan, manage and monitor removal of asbestos-containing materials. It did not prevent the possibility of asbestos being disturbed by its workers in areas that had not been surveyed extensively.

HSE’s southern head of operations Richard Boland said: “This outcome should act as a wake- up call that any refurbishment programmes involving asbestos-containing materials must be properly resourced, both in terms of time and money - no matter what.

“Large retailers and other organisations who carry out major refurbishment works must give contractors enough time and space within the store to carry out the works safely. Where this is not done, and construction workers and the public are put at risk, HSE will not hesitate in taking robust enforcement action.”

PA Realisations failed to reduce to a minimum the spread of asbestos to the Reading shop floor. Witnesses said that areas cleaned by the company were re-contaminated by air moving through the void between the ceiling tiles and the floor above, and by poor standards of work.

Verdict:

Marks and Spencer was found guilty of breaching section 2(1), relating to its own staff, and section 3(1), relating to members of the public and other workers, of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, on 18 July 2011.

Willmott Dixon was found guilty of contravening sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 between 5 February 2007 and 28 February 2007, on 18 July 2011.

PA Realisations was found guilty, on the 18 July 2011,of contravening regulation 15 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 between 5 May 2006 and 12 November 2006 at the Marks and Spencer plc store on Broad Street, Reading.

Styles & Wood pleaded guilty to contravening sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. These charges relate to offences committed between 24 April 2006 and 13 November 2006 at the Marks and Spencer plc store on Broad Street, Reading.

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