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Asbestos claims lawyer critical of retailer’s approach to the safety of general public as Marks and Spencer warns on asbestos exposure

Marks and Spencer under fire once again for possible asbestos risk

6 February 2013

According to the BBC, a contractor who worked for Marks and Spencer at their flagship London branch, warned the company as long ago as 1998 that it was breaching health and safety regulations relating to asbestos which could have endangered customers and staff at the store.

In September 2011 Judge Christopher Harvey Clark said there had been a "systemic" failure by Marks & Spencer management and its response to asbestos safety complaints was to "turn a blind eye" to what was happening because the asbestos work was "already costing the company too much". His comments came as he fined the company £1m for failing to protect staff and customers from asbestos dust at its Reading branch. 

William Wallace, who was working as a health and safety manager at the Marble Arch branch in London wrote a letter to the then chairman of the company, Sir Richard Greenbury, in 1998 following what he claims were a series of breaches at the store.

He noted that cladding had been removed and that asbestos had been left lying around.  He also noted that his instruction to turn off ceiling fans which were moving asbestos dust around was over-ruled because managers felt that food fridges would overheat. He also witnessed asbestos dust falling on a staff member.

Mr Wallace told the BBC's Inside Out programme: "There were minefields, asbestos minefields for the want of a better expression.

“You could not have guaranteed the safety of anybody, the workers, the staff, the customers: you could not have given a 100% guarantee that those people were safe."

Asbestos dust is extremely dangerous, and exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma. The use of asbestos is now illegal and strict measures are in place for anyone coming into contact with it.

Daniel Easton a partner in the workplace diseases team at law firm Leigh Day said:

“It is extremely disappointing and worrying that if these claims are true then profit would seem to have been put before the safety of customers and staff by one of the country’s most trusted retailers.

“It is scandalous that in this day and age, when the dangers of asbestos have been known for decades, that large national companies continue to disregard the safety of their employees, customers and other visitors.“

Dan Easton has investigated claims relating to asbestos exposure at M&S stores, and other leading shops up and down the country

Asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers

Leigh Day asbestos lawyers have unrivalled experience in securing compensation for people who have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace and who develop mesothelioma, often late in life.  Please contact Daniel Easton for a free and friendly initial consultation if you would like to talk to a lawyer about bringing a claim.

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