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Major fines handed down for asbestos rule breaches

Marks and Spencer and contractors including Willmott Dixon and Styles & Wood have been fined for putting members of the public, staff and construction workers at risk of exposure to asbestos.

Marks and Spencer was fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £600,000 while Willmott Dixon was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £75,000. Willmott Dixon is applying for permission to appeal.

Styles and Wood was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000, while asbestos removal firm PA Realisations (formerly Pectel Ltd), which has since gone into administration, was fined £200.

During a three-month trial, Winchester Crown Court heard that construction workers at Reading and Bournemouth stores removed asbestos-containing materials.

The court heard that Marks and Spencer did not allocate sufficient time and space for the removal of asbestos-containing materials at the Reading store.

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, which resulted in risks to contractors on site.

The principal contractor at the Bournemouth store, Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd, failed to plan, manage and monitor removal of asbestos-containing materials.

The company did not prevent the possibility of asbestos being disturbed by its workers in areas that had not been surveyed extensively.

In addition, PA Realisations failed to reduce to a minimum the spread of asbestos to the Reading shop floor.

Witnesses said that areas cleaned by the company were re-contaminated by air moving through the void between the ceiling tiles and the floor above, and by poor standards of work.