Marks & Spencer fined £1 million over asbestos risk
Marks & Spencer has been fined £1 million for putting customers and staff at risk of potential exposure to asbestos-containing materials at its Reading store.
At a sentencing hearing in Bournemouth, the retailer was also ordered to pay costs of £600,000 and the contractors working on the store refurbishment were given fines of £100,000 and £200.
Winchester Crown Court heard in July that construction workers at the store removed asbestos-containing materials that were present in the ceiling tiles but that Marks & Spencer did not allow enough time and space for the work to be completed in a safe manner. 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.
HSE alleged that Marks and Spencer plc failed to ensure that work at the Reading store complied with the appropriate minimum standards set out in legislation and approved codes of practice.
After the sentencing, 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."
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