Willmott Dixon and Style and Wood among firms prosecuted for breaches of safety regulations during refurbishment work

Four contractors including Willmott Dixon and Styles and Wood are to be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for failing to ensure that workers were protected from the risk of asbestos.

The HSE initiated criminal proceedings against Marks and Spencer and the four contractors for asbestos-related breaches of health and safety during refurbishment work.

The breaches took place at shops in Reading, Bournemouth and Plymouth between September 2004 and November 2006. The HSE alleges that the companies "failed to ensure that staff and members of the public were not exposed to risks from asbestos-containing materials".

At Bournemouth magistrate's court, Marks and Spencer pleaded not guilty to the breaches.

Styles and Wood pleaded guilty to contravening sections of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The firm will be sentenced at Crown Court at a later date.

Willmott Dixon Construction entered no plea to the allegations of contravening sections of the Act.

Manchester-based company PA Realisations Ltd, faces allegations of contravening the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations. They were not represented in court.

A committal hearing date has been set for February 2010.

Another company, Clarence Contractors was also prosecuted and sentenced in relation to asbestos removal. The company, which is in terminal liquidation was fined £200 plus costs.