The retail giant Marks & Spencer has been fined a total of £1 million after it was found that the company put customers and employees in danger by potentially exposing them to asbestos during a store refurbishment.
The company received the fine after inspectors found that an expensive refurbishment of one of its stores in Reading was not being carried out safely. M&S employed contractors to remove asbestos from the building during the refurbishment and issued them with guidance on how to do it safely. However, the company’s management failed in its ‘duty of care’ to ensure that the guidance was followed.
After a trial lasting three months, Winchester Crown Court found that M&S management had put the health of customers and workers in danger through this failure. Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said that the company seemed more interested in making money out of the refurbishment of the store than properly planning to ensure the safety of its customers.
M&S will have to rely on every kind of professional insurance policy it has to cover the costs of the case, which include £600,000 in prosecution costs as well as the £1million fine.