Marks and Spenser breach Asbestos Safety Regulations

On the 25th June 2014, Steve Rotheram, a Labour member of the all-party parliamentary group on asbestos, said: “…I am writing to the chief executive of the HSE [Health and Safety Executive] to establish immediate clarification on the procedures deployed by Marks & Spencer in relation to asbestos. I want assurances that the public can be confident that they were not put in any danger whilst shopping in these stores.”

In 1978 – 1987 Janice Allen, 53, was a supervisor in the men’s and women’s clothes sections of M&S, first at its main Oxford Street store in London and then in Uxbridge.  She has since been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a lethal form of lung cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibres.  There is no cure, and she has been given months to live.  M&S has agreed in the high court to pay “significant” damages after judgment in her favour in May. M&S admitted breaching its legal duty of care .

Allen’s lawyer, Harminder Bains, of Leigh Day,

“said there could be many people suffering asbestos-related diseases caused by owners of premises failing to comply with legal safety procedures.”

Janice Allen has Mesothelioma, cancer of the lung’s outer lining, which can take decades to develop and causes a drawn-out, painful death.

Allen, married with two children in their 20s, said she was

“devastated and distraught that she was dying from a cancer she had never heard of, from inhaling asbestos that she did not know existed in the stores.”  “I feel betrayed by Marks & Spencer. The company used to portray itself like a family; they engendered loyalty. I worked very hard, I met my husband there. But to think beneath the surface they were exposing people to deadly risks, to asbestos, it’s so cynical. We were looking forward to enjoying life in the coming years; instead I have to face the fact I will not live to see my grandchildren.”

Until the 1970’s, Asbestos was considered a miracle fire-proof building material.  It was widely used in construction after the second world war until it was recognised to be lethal.  Successive legislation has since required the removal of asbestos.

Steve Rowe, an M&S executive director, spoke to a BBC documentary in 2013, he said:

“If you look back into the 60s, 70s and 80s, it is possible that staff were exposed to asbestos in our stores.” But M&S’s policies relating to asbestos had become “industry leading” since then.

Marks and Spenser was fined £1m in 2011 for unsafe handling of asbestos at its Reading store.  The judge Harvey Clarke QC said managers had been cavalier in not closing the store while the work was ongoing, “to keep the trading profit as high as reasonably possible”.

25 years after leaving Marks and Spencer, in the summer of 2012, Allen felt agonising pain near her ribs, and in April 2013 she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Allens lawyer Bains believed it was likely that she had been exposed to asbestos while working there.

William Wallace, a health and safety officer who worked at the Reading store in 2006, informed the HSE of the criminally unsafe work there and became a witness in the Reading prosecution, had worked at the Marble Arch store in 1998 and acted as a witness in Allen’s legal claim.

Wallace provided inside knowledge of large quantities of asbestos in the Marble Arch store, in fire doors, pillars, ceiling voids and insulation board. He said the air-conditioning was likely to have circulated asbestos dust, and staff and the public could have been exposed in other ways unless strict measures were followed.

M&S declined to comment on its breach of duty to Allen, but stressed it took place in the 1970s and 80s.

In a statement the company said:

“We are confident that we now have the most rigorous policy we can have in place and that M&S stores are safe for our employees and our customers.”


Quantum Quotes:


Why you should make health and safety a priority

Health and safety can sometimes seen as a bit of a headache for people in business.  If, however, you make it a real priority then you might reap significant rewards in the long-term.

The correct implementation of Health and Safety measures can gradually boost your profits in quite a wide variety of ways.  One of the main benefits of being conscientious in this area is that you can establish a very positive relationship with your workforce.

Consulting with personnel can work wonders

By taking Health and Safety seriously you can improve the way that you are regarded by your workers.  You will be involving several individuals in the collective pursuit of a better working environment, with the discussions that you have, showing them that you value their input.  Certainly, you’ll all get to know each other better, which must be a positive outcome.

Employees appreciating safety

There are very few people that would want to work hard in workplaces that contain genuine hazards.  It is important that you communicate effectively so that everyone knows how to work safely.  If you can address possible threats in your business then your proactive attitude will be appreciated.


Staff retention may be maximised

No business would be successful losing some of your workforce because of a careless attitude to Health and Safety.  If there’s a lot of absenteeism due to a failure to pursue best practice, then staff morale will slump. However, you can keep the best and the brightest happy by implementing prudent policies.


June 2014 Newsletter


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June 2014


London Developer Fined

Dangerous work at height identified 

The owner and developer of a construction site in Raynes Park, South London has appeared in court after a safety inspector twice spotted dangerous work at height from the carriage of a passing train.

A closer inspection of the site confirmed work was taking place on and around the roof of a three-storey building without any measures in place to prevent or mitigate a fall.

A HSE inspector first spotted unsafe work on 19 August 2013 as he passed by on a train. He headed straight for the site and immediately served a Prohibition Notice.  The same inspector making the same train journey witnessed near identical activity less than two months later.

For more information on the fines issued and specific regulations breached, please read more.

Read More

Fire Statistics

April 2012 to March 2013 within UK

The latest fire statistics have just been released by the Department for Communities & Local Government.  Are you aware of the risks?

Fire and Rescue Authorities in Britain attended 192,600 fires in 2012-13. This is nearly a third fewer than the year before, due to fewer outdoor fires as a result of above average rain-fall.

While only 12 per cent of dwellings report not having a working smoke alarm in England, more than one third of fires occurred in dwellings in Great Britain where no alarm was installed.

Three quarters of fire-related fatalities occurred in dwelling fires, the figure fell by 11 per cent (32 deaths) compared to 2011-12.

For more points released, for further information from the Department for Communities and Local Government as well as how we can assist you in reducing risk, please read more.

Mythbusting by the HSE

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.

Phil Jones

School garden bans cane supports for plants due to health and safety

The enquirer’s wife works as a Teaching Assistant at a local Primary School. One of her duties is to look after the school garden and bamboo canes are being used to support runner bean plants. One of the school governors has stated that for ‘Health and Safety’ reasons all the canes must have a ping pong ball on the end. This is so the children don’t trip and impail themselves on the canes.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

Café refused to top up tea in same cup due to health and safety

The enquirer was having a cup of tea in a café and was told he could not have a second cup poured into the same cup – instead it would have to be supplied in a new clean one.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

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5 Year Old Crushed to Death

A five-year-old girl was crushed to death by an electric gate in Bridgend on July 3rd 2010 and a Swansea installation firm and a Cardiff maintenance company have been sentenced for serious safety failings.

Karolina Golabek was killed when she became trapped between the closing edge of the gate and the gate post outside flats near her home.   John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd and Tremorfa Ltd were prosecuted after the incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who found that the gate was inherently unsafe and posed a clear risk.

Cardiff Crown Court heard on Thursday 12 June 2014 that Karolina was playing around the gates in Brook Court when they automatically closed after a car passed through. Her body was found in the gap between the post and gate a short time later by a resident. She was rushed to hospital, but died as a result of her injuries. The gates closing force was in excess of 2,000N, the equivalent to the force created by a weight of 440lbs (220kgs). HSE found that the closing force of the gate did not meet European and British safety standards. There were also dangers with the gate structure and its safety features were incorrectly set which left space for people to get trapped.  There were insufficient safety devices to detect a person in the area that would automatically prevent it closing.

The court was told that John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd had fitted a new electric motor to the gate when a previous motor had broken but that the gate was put back into use despite the fact that there were obvious trapping points. The firm also failed to properly test that the gate stopped when it met an obstruction, or test the force that the gate closed with.

The company contracted to maintain the gate was Tremorfa Limited. Despite carrying out two maintenance visits, the last one just six weeks before Karolina’s death, the company did not carry out vital safety checks that included the closing force measurements. John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd of Phoenix Way, Garngoch Industrial Estate, Swansea, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Tremorfa Ltd, of Pascal Close, St Mellons, Cardiff, was fined £50,000 with costs of £40,000 also pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Stuart Charles, said:

“Karolina’s death has left her family devastated, and yet it could so easily have been avoided. Both companies walked away from the gate leaving it in an unsafe condition. Both could have prevented this tragedy. Automated gates are becoming more common and it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate that even small gates can close with significant force.  Badly installed and maintained gates are a threat to all pedestrians, but young children are particularly vulnerable because they are often completely unaware of the dangers.” “No-one should install or work on automated gates without knowing the relevant safety standards or without having the right equipment to check that the gate is safe after they have worked on it. If you own or are responsible for managing properties with automatic gates you should ensure they are properly maintained. You should also ensure that those carrying out the maintenance are competent to do so.”


Phil Jones (Technical Director) comments:

When designing, constructing, installing and/or commissioning electrically powered gates, or where managing sites where electrically powered gates exist, employers must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that:

1. They have undertaken a suitable and sufficient risk assessment which should include the following;

  • the identification of any trapping and/or crushing zones;
  • the identification of ways in which safe operating systems (such as key-pad or key-fob systems) may be defeated; and
  • the identification of ways in which persons may be harmed by the gates should they be activated automatically.

2. They have eliminated and/or controlled any risks identified from the risk assessment(s). Wherever possible risks should be eliminated, but where they need to be controlled, technology such as fixed guards, pressure sensitive strips, safety sensor flooring, light barriers or infra-red detectors may help control and/or reduce the risk, but consideration needs to be given to how a person may still be harmed if one of these systems fail.

3. Where your organisation uses contractors you should satisfy yourself that the contractor is sufficiently competent to carry out the work that is asked of them. Their work should be periodically monitored and reviewed.

4. Any component parts (such as motors and motor arms) supplied by separate manufacturers should be installed in accordance with the manufacturers guidance, and used in accordance with their instructions for use.

5. Persons adopting the responsibility for the management and maintenance of the gates should be provided with the appropriate safety documentation, instructions for use, and training in how to operate and maintain the gates safely.

For more information visit HSE website

Pontins Holiday Park breach Health & Safety with disastrous consequences

Consumer Complaints show Watchdog has slammed a Southport Holiday resort for serious health and safety breaches.

Pontins resort in Ainsdale was highlighted in a damning investigation on the BBC One show during the last week in May 2014 after a primary school child was left needing hospital treatment during his stay at the camp in 2013.

The Holiday park had been advertised as a ‘new and improved Pontins.’  Kieran Foster and his family booked a holiday to the Shore Road site.  Shortly after checking in as the family walked through the public car park, a small but heavy metal capacitor from a broken floodlight fell thirty feet directly onto Kieran’s head.  This caused an inch long gash across his scalp and blood to stream down his face.

Kieran’s mother Sam Foster told Watchdog: “…He clearly needed medical attention straight away.“

Sam’s calls to the Pontins helpline number that guests are told to use in case of an emergency were left unanswered.   The family rushed to Southport District General Hospital where Kieran’s head had to be stitched back together.

Following their hospital visit, Sam went to the manager of Pontins to inform him about the broken light as there was still some metal hanging off it and was assured that it would be seen to straight away.  This did not happen and the area hadn’t been sealed off.

Watchdog sent an undercover team to the Southport Pontins three months after The Foster’s stay to see if any changes had been made.  What they found was a damning scene of open and unguarded construction sites, mountains of rubbish and worst of all, an exposed highly flammable gas container.  All were accessible to guests and dumped just yards from one of the resort’s accommodation blocks.

Britannia Hotels, who own Pontins, stated: “We take all health and safety issues seriously and our refurbishment projects are all supervised by independent health and safety experts.  We maintain that out health and safety record is excellent.“


It is essential that Health and Safety policies are adhered to in order to endeavour to prevent potential hazards from causing harm.  Please contact us should you wish to speak with us to determine your compliance needs.

Ministry of Justice announce a Bill to curb ‘elf and safety’ culture

The Secretary of State for Justice has announced a bill that intends to reduce the health and safety ‘jobsworth’ culture .
In a blog for Conservative Home, Chris Grayling reveals that The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill (SARAH), is intended to remove the bureaucracy that can deter people from doing good deeds.

Mr Grayling argues that people are often put off from doing the “right thing” out of fear that they will end up facing a lawsuit for negligence.  The Justice Secretary argues that the idea behind SARAH is to protect people who act in the interests of society.

Mr Grayling has commented,

Take the responsible employer who puts in place proper training for staff, who has sensible safety procedures, and tries to do the right thing. And then someone injures themselves doing something stupid or something that no reasonable person would ever have expected to be a risk.  Common sense says that the law should not simply penalise the employer for what has gone wrong.”

The Ministry of Justice said the law would be changed so that judges will have to give weight to factors when deciding negligence cases.

The proposed bill will serve as a signpost from Parliament to the Courts about how the Government wants the law to be applied and would apply in England and Wales.

London Developer Fined

The owner and developer of a construction site in Raynes Park, South London has appeared in court after a safety inspector twice spotted dangerous work at height from the carriage of a passing train.

A closer inspection of the site confirmed work was taking place on and around the roof of a three-storey building without any measures in place to prevent or mitigate a fall.

The principal contractor was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the principal contractor and construction manager for the work.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that the contractor part-owned the site and was overseeing a project to replace former shops with a new-build mixed use complex.

A HSE inspector first spotted unsafe work on 19 August 2013 as he passed by on a train. He headed straight for the site after getting off at the next station, and immediately served a Prohibition Notice to prevent any further work at height until adequate safety measures were put in place.

However, the same inspector making the same train journey witnessed near identical activity less than two months later. He again got off the train and visited site before issuing two further notices.

The court was told that although nobody was injured at the site, the fall risk was significant. As the designated principal contractor and person in control of the work, it was the contractor’s responsibility to ensure sufficient safety measures were in place.

The contractor was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay a further £1,200 in costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.


‘Death Trap’ Hotel Owner is Jailed

On account of breaching fire safety regulations, the owner of a hotel in Walsall has been jailed for 12 months.

An investigation was completed and revealed that the hotel’s fire exit on the first floor had been blocked by mattresses, while the fire alarms were deemed to be faulty. There were also obstructions found on the landing and the emergency lighting was not working properly, according to the reports.

The Bescot Hotel in Walsall was visited by officers from Wolverhampton Fire Safety Centre, after a customer complained. It transpired a blaze could easily have ravaged the basement, which is where the main electricity supply was located. Officers also found:

  • Fire alarms had not been adequately maintained or tested.
  • Some bedrooms were lacking smoke detectors, action notices or fire alarm sounders.
  • When the alarm was tested, officers realised it could not be heard in all parts of the hotel.
  • No fire drills or staff training had taken place.

In light of these failings, the officers served a prohibition notice, which ordered certain parts of the hotel to no longer be used for sleeping accommodation or certain other purposes.

The hotel owner was jailed for 12 months as a result of the breaching eight counts of fire safety regulations.

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