Marks and Spencer was fined £1m and ordered to pay costs of £600,000. Contractor Styles & Wood was fined £100,000 with costs of £40,000 and Willmott Dixon was fined £50,000 with costs of £75,000. Asbestos specialist PA Realisations (formerly Pectel Ltd) is now in administration and was fined a token £200.
Following a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive, Marks and Spencer, Willmott Dixon and PA Realisations were found guilty in July 2011, after a three month trial at Winchester Crown Court, Construction News reported.
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.”
During the trial the court heard that construction workers at two stores in Reading and Bournemouth 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 its store in Reading and that 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, resulting in risks to contractors on site.
The court also heard that the principal contractor at the Bournemouth store, Wilmott Dixon, failed to plan, manage and monitor removal of asbestos-containing materials. Willmott Dixon is planning to apply for permission to appeal against the conviction. In a statement the company said: “We are disappointed and surprised by today’s verdict – it is the first time in our 160 year history that we have been convicted of a health and safety related offence.”