The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched criminal proceedings against Marks & Spencer and four other companies over alleged asbestos fibres-related breaches of law, which could potentially lead to a number of separate injury compensation claims being brought forward.
Marks & Spencer has pleaded not guilty to three offences concerning breaches at its stores in Reading, Bournemouth and Plymouth, where the HSE claims that staff and members of the public were not protected from exposure to the deadly substance.
In addition to the high street retailer, Cheshire-based Styles and Wood, Manchester-based PA Realisations and building contractor Wilmott Dixon Construction have also been accused of health and safety breaches.
A fifth company, Clarence Contractors, was also prosecuted and sentenced in relation to asbestos fibre removal and has been fined GBP 50 for each offence and GBP 100 in costs.
HSE figures show that the total number of deaths from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related disease, increased from 153 in 1968 to 2,156 in 2007.