Retailer Marks and Spencers was warned about deadly asbestos in a central London branch a decade before it was fined £1 million over its "systemic failures" in dealing with the material, according to a documentary that aired last night.
The BBC Inside Out programme alleged that M&S bosses were warned about asbestos in 1998.
But in 2011 the firm was taken to court over asbestos removal at its Reading branch.
The judge in that case said that "tension" between health and safety and profit had caused "lamentable problems" there.
In last night's programme a contractor said that he warned M&S about the danger of asbestos as far back as 1998.
He said that in one instance the deadly material had been stripped with a sledgehammer.
Asbestos can cause a number of debilitating, life-threatening and incurable illnesses, including mesothelioma, a lung cancer.
There is no effective treatment for mesothelioma, which can take more than 50 years to show itself. Death usually occurs within two years of diagnosis.
Although asbestos is now banned, thousands of commercial and public buildings - including schools - are riddled with the stuff.
Mesothelioma kills more than 2,000 people a year and the number is rising, in line with increased use of asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in the construction industry.
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