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High Street retailer John Lewis was fined  £20,000 on November 9, after a court heard that around 15 workers could have been exposed to deadly asbestos while carrying out refurbishment work at the chain’s Edinburgh store.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told renovation work was being carried out over four days at the management suite of the John Lewis store at the city's St James Centre in July 2008.

When asbestos was discovered at a board between two radiators workers covered it in a bag and reported it to management before a check was carried out.  

Work was allowed to continue while the board was sent for analysis but the site should have been shut down.

It was only when the results proved positive that the project was halted. The court heard around 15 workers could potentially have been exposed to the harmful substance.

The contractors, Morris and Spottiswood were also fined £20,000 by Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie who added that she had reduced the fines from £30,000 to reflect both companies’ guilty pleas to three charges under the Control of Asbestos Regulations and Health and Safety at Work Regulations.  Sheriff Jarvie said: "This was a serious and disturbing case but in any event no-one sustained any harm. As soon as discovery was made effective and immediate action was taken by the two companies.

“Since the incident a thorough investigation was undertaken to ensure such incidents will not occur in the future. Both companies have incurred considerable expense in putting these systems in place."

Frank Maguire, Thompsons Senior Partner, and a specialist in dealing with asbestos cases said: “It seems quite incredible that significant companies like John Lewis and Morris and Spottiswood seem to have adopted such a lackadaisical attitude to the risks of asbestos exposure.

“Tradesmen involved in renovation projects are a particularly high risk group because of the danger they might inhale asbestos particles if they disturb it in the course of their work.

“As soon as asbestos is discovered normal work should cease until the asbestos is rendered safe.”

If you or a family member suffers from a work related cancer, be it mesothelioma, asbestosis  or pleural plaques then contact Thompsons today on 0800 0891 331 and we can help you claim  the compensation you deserve on a No Win No Fee basis.

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