M & S get heavy fine for Health and Safety breaches

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 07:28 Written by Ed Beckmann Tuesday, 27 September 2011 05:12

Why Health and Safety regulations are necessary to save lives

Major retailer M & S was given a £1m fine and ordered to pay £600,000 in costs for Health and Safety breaches today.

After a long trial three companies – retailer M & S and contractors Styles and Woods and Wilmott Dixon Construction – were found guilty of breaches for failing to control the risk to customers, staff and workers being exposed to the deadly substance asbestos.

Reported in full in the press, the relevant points of the story seem to be:

  • breaches occurred during major refurbishment costing £1.3 billion was being carried out in stores throughout the country, and the stores in Bournemouth and Reading were used in the evidence for the case
  • the works involved disturbing and removing amounts of asbestos material
  • in their defence, M & S described how they preferred not to close the stores or put up protective partitions because they would be ‘interfering with the shopping experience’
  • M & S was brought to court as well as the companies they contracted to do the work because of the dusy of care and involvement they had related to the work

Why this is relevant to any business with premises

We regularly hear stories of an over-zealous approach to health and safety matters, so is this just another example of business struggling to keep going despite rules and regulations?

Well, no actually. Once you are exposed to the tiniest bit of asbestos your body does not get rid of it – so just because there is no blood and guts at the time it does not mean that nobody was hurt (asbestos dust has been proven to cause cancer). Despite very stringent regulations about asbestos, over 4,000 die each year because of it.

Yes, on average over ten people every day.

So the message to businesses with premises is that asbestos currently causes twice as many deaths in the UK as car crashes. It is your responsibility to make sure that you assess and minimise the risk to everyone if you have any maintenance work done. And if you would rather keep the shop open in the day than be 100% certain that nobody will get hurt perhaps you need to think of the families of those 4,000 dead people. Even the judge said that people who visited the store during the work ”have a right to be anxious as to whether they have breathed in asbestos fibres.”. And it is reasonable to guess that anyone who has worked in the maintenance or the refurbishment of the stores involved may well be worried that they could have been exposed.

Please take care – Health and Safety regulations are there for a reason!

For more guidance to help you decide if your business is affected by asbestos, see this link.

The details of this blog were found in the Southern Daily Echo and BBC Berkshire.

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