Household name retailer, M&S, prosecuted for Asbestos breaches

13 Apr 2011

In January 2010 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) initiated criminal proceedings against Marks and Spencer plc for asbestos-related breaches at shops in Bournemouth, Plymouth and Reading. Amidst a flurry of media interest, the high profile Trial has now commenced.

Asbestos exposure may also give rise to a civil claim in negligence and/or breach of statutory duty for personal injury. Based on the average cost of claims, the estimated future cost to the UK insurance industry of asbestos-related claims is £4-£10 billion.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 consolidate previous Regulations covering the prohibition of asbestos, the control of asbestos at work and asbestos licensing. They also contain several new provisions imposing duties to manage asbestos in non-domestic buildings. Non-compliance can lead to prosecution, and if found guilty the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and/or a 2 year prison sentence.

These sobering statistics highlight the importance of employers and other duty holders properly managing the risks from asbestos in non-domestic buildings.

Marks & Spencer have pleaded not guilty to each of the breaches. The Trial is expected to last 15 weeks.