M & S get heavy fine for Health and Safety breaches

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 07:28 Written by Ed Beckmann Tuesday, 27 September 2011 05:12

Why Health and Safety regulations are necessary to save lives

Major retailer M & S was given a £1m fine and ordered to pay £600,000 in costs for Health and Safety breaches today.

After a long trial three companies – retailer M & S and contractors Styles and Woods and Wilmott Dixon Construction – were found guilty of breaches for failing to control the risk to customers, staff and workers being exposed to the deadly substance asbestos.

Reported in full in the press, the relevant points of the story seem to be:

  • breaches occurred during major refurbishment costing £1.3 billion was being carried out in stores throughout the country, and the stores in Bournemouth and Reading were used in the evidence for the case
  • the works involved disturbing and removing amounts of asbestos material
  • in their defence, M & S described how they preferred not to close the stores or put up protective partitions because they would be ‘interfering with the shopping experience’
  • M & S was brought to court as well as the companies they contracted to do the work because of the dusy of care and involvement they had related to the work

Why this is relevant to any business with premises

We regularly hear stories of an over-zealous approach to health and safety matters, so is this just another example of business struggling to keep going despite rules and regulations?

Well, no actually. Once you are exposed to the tiniest bit of asbestos your body does not get rid of it – so just because there is no blood and guts at the time it does not mean that nobody was hurt (asbestos dust has been proven to cause cancer). Despite very stringent regulations about asbestos, over 4,000 die each year because of it.

Yes, on average over ten people every day.

So the message to businesses with premises is that asbestos currently causes twice as many deaths in the UK as car crashes. It is your responsibility to make sure that you assess and minimise the risk to everyone if you have any maintenance work done. And if you would rather keep the shop open in the day than be 100% certain that nobody will get hurt perhaps you need to think of the families of those 4,000 dead people. Even the judge said that people who visited the store during the work ”have a right to be anxious as to whether they have breathed in asbestos fibres.”. And it is reasonable to guess that anyone who has worked in the maintenance or the refurbishment of the stores involved may well be worried that they could have been exposed.

Please take care – Health and Safety regulations are there for a reason!

For more guidance to help you decide if your business is affected by asbestos, see this link.

The details of this blog were found in the Southern Daily Echo and BBC Berkshire.

more ...

why do you want to start up on your own?

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 07:29 Written by Ed Beckmann Wednesday, 30 March 2011 11:19

The economic state at the moment has prompted a number of people to call me to discuss starting to work for themselves or run a business. Before going straight into the mechanics of regulations, tax, writing business plans etc, I always spend a while discussing the more personal reasons behind the call.

We have different circumstances, ambitions and long- term desires, so it makes sense to consider exactly what you want. I have distilled it down to a list of points to consider and can take action on now.

List your personal ambitions

List the things that you want to do or achieve. You may find it useful to start with headings of finance, friends & family, community & society, reputation or fame, things to excel at and things to do or see.

We do this check to make sure that any business we plan will take us towards, not away from these desires.

Write a job description

If  this seems bizarre, just think of the people you know who run a business and who have said they have no free time, no wages, no holiday etc. It is quite unrealistic for your business to give you regular hours, salary and holiday in the short term, but you should make yourself aware of what you reasonably expect, so that you can work out whether the plans you have can provide what you want.

Also, if you plan everything with no expectation of a minimal return, you can very easily get stuck with customers who get used to low prices and who could not give you a decent living when you want one.


Just note down your annual wages, holidays, working hours and days and the kind of tasks you will be doing. If you would not apply for the resulting job, change your plans!

Work life balance

If you are the boss then there should not be a line between work = bad and life = good. Of course you will have to do things that you enjoy less than others, but aim for the things you do for income to be interesting and enjoyable as well. So life includes an element of work, but it is not one or the other.


Check that the way you do business will be a fulfilling way to spend your time. Be creative – there aremany ways ot get the same end result.

Setting goals

To start with budgeting and making plans can seem like trying to predict the future, especially regarding sales and income. The secret is to do it in steps.


  1. calculate what you want or need to earn for the next six months
  2. work it out in terms of what you do, e.g. number of products sold, sessions done, days delivered etc.
  3. from that work out how many customers it would mean
  4. from that, estimate how much networking / advertising / calling you need to do to achieve it

Naturally your guess of how many calls result in a given amount of business is a guess. However, as you start this estimate becomes more accurate and you can then see how much it would bring you at that rate over six months. Like any long journey, we often have an arrival time in mind and sometimes alter our speed or effort on the way. We cannot control everything, but we can adjust as we go.

the business mission and vision

Sometimes larger organisations can make this a very dry exercise, but here is an interesting and practical way to make it useful for you.


  • decide what difference you want you and the business to make in the world. You can operate at any level – satisfying customers in your village, county or region are totally acceptable, as is a sole aim to make a specific amount of money. That is your mission
  • decide what you, on your way to the mission, will look like, It may be a bustling market stall, a huge welcome at a conference, you signing books for a queue of people, a fleet of your own vehicles around the country. That is your vision

Can you see how these give you something to plan towards?


Hopefully this has given you an insight and some of the tools to plan to work for yourself or run a business which will be both compelling and satisfying. These steps will take far less time to do than other aspects of starting up, and they will be very valuable to update in the years ahead.

more ...

what are the 7 themes?

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 07:29 Written by Ed Beckmann Sunday, 23 January 2011 12:27

what are the seven themes about?

We discovered that all of the core characteristics and skills you need to make a success of your idea, business or group fall under one of the seven themes. Know the first three, and you can set up in business. Know the other four, and you will be able to keep it going! What they add to other theories relating to business and enterprise is that each one includes both a personal and a professional aspect. Although we go into them in much more depth in the courses which you can subscribe to, here is a quick explanation that you are free to explore for yourself. There area few sentences about each theme below, and a detailed pdf document which you can download and read more carefully.

more ...


useful links

Site Search