Discount retailer Poundstretcher has been handed down fines of £1million after breaches in health and safety regulations were found at three of its stores in Swindon, Newhaven and Newbury following a complaint from a worker in the warehouse in the Swindon facility.
Inspectors and environmental officers examined all three stores, finding emergency exits blocked, and stock stored dangerously, along with alleged non-compliance of safety procedures and guidance.
In its defence, Poundstretcher said that the issues were due to local management.
Poundstretcher pleaded guilty to 24 counts of breaching Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
During sentencing at Portsmouth Crown Court, Judge Hetherington said that blaming local management was “deeply unattractive, coming from a major employer employing some 6,000 people, but, in my judgement, on the evidence I heard, quite fair.”
Judge Hetherington added: “And it is, in any event, a circular argument – it is part of higher management’s function to see to it that local management is in place and performing to a proper standard.
“This complacent attitude was highlighted by the way in which senior management, often at director or company secretary level, dealt with requests for interview by enforcing authorities.
“Whilst, as a matter of strict law, the company may have been entitled not to co-operate, their consistent failure properly to engage with and answer questions spoke volumes as to the company’s attitude towards the role of the enforcing authorities.”
Joint Public Protection Committee chairman Norman Jorgensen added: “This conviction and penalty highlights the importance of taking steps to protect the health and safety of employees and members of the public as well as emphasising the importance that employee training plays in this process.”