Sentencing has taken place of Marks and Spencer plc and 3 of its contractors following convictions in July for putting members of the public, staff and construction workers at risk of exposure to asbestos-containing materials.

The prosecutions stemmed from the poor manner in which refurbishment work was carried out at stores in Reading and Bournemouth during 2006 and 2007.
Examining the safety failings, it became clear to HSE that Marks and Spencer did not allocate sufficient time and space for the removal of the asbestos-containing materials at the Reading store. The contractors had to work overnight in enclosures and finish before the shop opened to the public each day. Although the company had its own guidance on how asbestos should be removed inside its stores, this guidance was followed by contractors “inappropriately” during major refurbishment.
At the Bournemouth project the principal contractor 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.

Marks and Spencer plc of North Wharf Road, Westminster, was found guilty of breaching S.2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and at Bournemouth Crown Court it was fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £600,000. These failings relate to work at its Broad Street, Reading, store from 24th April 2006 to 13th November 2006.

Contractor Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd was found guilty of contravening the same sections of the Act during February 2007 and and was fined £50,000 plus costs of £75,000, the failures related to a store in Commercial Road, Bournemouth. It is applying for permission to appeal against conviction.
PA Realisations Ltd (formerly Pectel Ltd) of Chapel Walks, Manchester, was found guilty of contravening r.15 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 between May and November 2006 at the Marks and Spencer plc store in Reading, it was fined £200, the company now awaits dissolution.

Styles & Wood Limited of Altrincham, Cheshire, admitted breaching S2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act
1974, these offences were committed between April and November 2006 at the Reading store. It was fined £100,000 with costs of £40,000.
Another company, Clarence Contractors Ltd of Sheffield, now in liquidation, was fined a total of £200 with £100 costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching r.10 and r.15 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. These offences were committed between September 2004 and September 2006 at a store in Plymouth. It also pleaded guilty to contravening r.11 and r.16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 at the Bournemouth store. The offence under r.11 took place between February and July 2007, the offence under r.16 occurred during February and March 2007.

PA Realisations Ltd had not reduced to a minimum the spread of asbestos at Reading, areas cleaned 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 admitted that it should not have permitted a method of asbestos removal which did not allow for adequate sealing of the ceiling void, and which resulted in risks to contractors on site.

An HSE official commented: “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.