U.K. Department Store Mishandled Asbestos
A British department store chain, Marks & Spencer, in 2011 received a $1.5 million (in U.S. dollars) fine for exposing its workers and customers to asbestos in one of its locations. However, it had been warned a decade ago that it was “breaching asbestos removal guidelines,” in another store in London, according to a recent story on the BBC Web site.
Contractor William Wallace said that in 1998 he warned the then-chairman of Marks & Spencer that renovation work at the chain’s London location was noncompliant with asbestos regulations. Marks & Spencer claimed the incident was thoroughly investigated and that no member of the staff or the public was put at risk.
However, during a 2006 renovation, ceiling tiles containing asbestos fell to the floor of a store in the town of Reading. The store was open at the time, according to this BBC article. This time, the allegations led the Health and Safety Executive, a work oversight agency, to take Marks & Spencer to court.
In 2011, a judge imposed the $1.5 million fine on the chain, saying that contractors, staff, and shoppers "have a right to be anxious as to whether they have breathed asbestos fiber and what effect that might have on their well-being and future." He claimed there had been a “systemic” failure in asbestos policy.
A representative of Marks & Spencer insisted to the BBC the company’s general compliance policies are good. “Implementation of the policy wasn't good at Reading,” he said. “We are very sorry about that. We regret it.”
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