Wed, 03 Jan 2018
STAFF at Poundstretcher in Newbury were found to have flouted health and safety rules, following an investigation by the Environmental Health service.
Poundstretcher Ltd has been fined £1m for health and safety breaches at a total of three stores, including the one at Newbury Retail Park.
Environmental Health officers visited the store in December 2014 and found that emergency exits were blocked and excessive stock was stored in a dangerous manner. Subsequent enquiries revealed that the company did not follow its own safety procedures.
Poundstretcher Ltd pleaded guilty to a total of 24 counts of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Bosses at the budget retail firm, based in Huddersfield, were also given a dressing-down by a crown court judge for failing to co-operate fully with the investigation.
Speaking at the sentencing hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court on December 12, Judge Hetherington told company representatives: “To blame the local management is not only deeply unattractive, coming from a major employer employing some 6,000 people, but, in my judgment, on the evidence I heard, quite unfair.
“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.”
He added: “This complacent attitude was highlighted by the way in which senior management, often at director/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.”
Poundstretcher Ltd was fined a total of £1m which included a penalty of £333,334 in respect of the three offences relating to the Newbury store.
A costs order in the sum of £65,767.74 was also made.
The other stores investigated were based in Swindon and Newhaven.
The chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee, Norman Jorgensen, said: “The importance of the work that the service carries out to ensure that health and safety laws are complied with is demonstrated by this case.
“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.
“It also represents an excellent example of three authorities working together to put the totality of the offending before the court.
“We are grateful to our colleagues from Swindon Borough Council and Lewes District Council for their assistance.”