Poundstretcher has been handed a £1 million fine for breaches to health and safety legislation at three of its stores in Newbury, Newhaven and Swindon.
The discount retailer pleaded guilty to a total of 24 counts of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 after the three stores were inspected by environmental health officers.
The inspections were prompted after a complaint from a worker at Pountstretcher’s warehouse in Swindon.
Meanwhile, inspections discovered in the Newhaven store in December 2014 that emergency exits were blocked and stock was stored dangerously.
Further investigation indicated that Poundstretcher allegedly did not follow its own safety procedures and guidance.
The retailer has said that the issues were due to local management.
During the recent sentencing hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court, Judge Hetherington said: “To blame the local management is not only deeply unattractive, coming from a major employer employing some 6000 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.
“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 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.”