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MASSIVE FINES IMPOSED FOR ASBESTOS FAILINGS

National retailer sentenced over asbestos risk to shoppers and workers

Marks and Spencer plc and contractors have today (27 September 2011) been fined for putting members of the public, staff and construction workers at risk of exposure to asbestos-containing materials during the refurbishment of stores in Reading and Bournemouth during 2006.

The court heard that:

  • Marks and Spencer plc failed to allocate sufficient time and space for the removal of asbestos-containing materials at the Reading store. HSE alleged the minimum standards set out in legislation and approved codes of practice were not met and M&S internal guidance on how asbestos should be removed was not followed appropriately;
  • PA Realisations Ltd did not reduce the spread of asbestos to the Reading shop floor. 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;
  • Styles & Wood Limited (principal contractor at Reading) permitted a method of asbestos removal which did not allow for adequate sealing of the ceiling void resulting in risks to contractors on site;
  • Wilmott Dixon Construction Ltd (principal contractor at Bournemouth) failed to plan, manage and monitor removal of asbestos-containing materials and did not prevent the possibility of asbestos being disturbed in areas that had not been surveyed extensively.

The sentencing follows a three month trial ending in July 2011 where Winchester Crown Court heard that construction workers at the two stores removed asbestos-containing materials that were present in the ceiling tiles and elsewhere.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said the company was more interested in making profits out of its Reading store than properly planning for the removal of asbestos and that the “tension” between health and safety and profit had caused the “lamentable problems”.

He added: “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.” He conculded that people who visited the store during the work “have a right to be anxious as to whether they have breathed in asbestos fibres”.

Major refurb clients must give contractors enough time and space

Marks and Spencer plc was fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £600,000. The charges and fines relate to the Broad Street, Reading store and date from 24 April 2006 to 13 November 2006.

Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £75,000. These breaches took place at the M&S store in Commercial Road, Bournemouth. PA Realisations Ltd (formerly Pectel Ltd) was fined £200. The company went into administration in December 2008 and now awaits dissolution.

At an earlier hearing on 12 January 2010, Styles & Wood Limited pleaded guilty to charges relate to offences committed at the M&S store in Reading and have now been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

The health and safety of our employees, customers and contractors is of the upmost importance to us. We hope to continue to work closely with the HSE in the future to ensure that strict regulations and safety standards relating to asbestos are maintained.”

Richard Boland, HSE’s Southern Head of Operations for Construction, 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.”

A spokesperson for M&S told the Telegraph:

“We are very disappointed with the result of this case, as we believe that we have always acted responsibly and with a safety-first attitude.

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One Response to “MASSIVE FINES IMPOSED FOR ASBESTOS FAILINGS”

  1. HSE ENFORCEMENT UPDATE 7th DECEMBER 2011 | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] Styles & Wood Limited – asbestos exposure and spread: £100,000; […]