Poundstretcher has been fined £1m for violating health and safety regulations at three of its stores.
Following three separate investigations, Poundstretcher in Trident Business Park, Leeds Road, Huddersfield, was convicted for a series of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The counts, which included three breaches at its Newbury store, investigated by the Environmental Health service, which works with communities across Bracknell, West Berkshire and Wokingham, related to the way the company operated its stocking of stores and its failure to properly train staff.
It is noted after further enquiries that the company did not even follow its own safety procedures. Poundstretcher had previously pleaded guilty to a total of 24 counts brought against the company by three separate authorities following investigations into breaches of health and safety laws at stores in Newbury, Swindon and Newhaven.
The investigation at the Newbury Retail Park store followed a visit undertaken by Environmental Health officers in December 2014. At the time of the visit officers found that emergency exits were blocked and excessive stock was stored in a dangerous manner.
On 12 December 2017 the company appeared before the Portsmouth Crown Court to be sentenced. Judge Hetherington said: “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.
“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/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.”
The defendant 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 totatlling £65,767.74 was also made.