Posted by Woods Whur | Regulatory

You may consider this subject to be trivial, irrelevant or not worthy of consideration – or perhaps all three!

However, a recent case against the discount store, Pound Stretcher, might force you to take a different view about keeping store rooms and other areas uncluttered, walkways unimpeded and other exits free to use. After an unannounced visit by local authority officers at one of its stores in Swindon, a number of issues were identified in relation to chaotic arrangements and grossly overstocked storerooms. The investigating authority found aisles and walkways, as well as fire exits, blocked, and staff not trained to the appropriate standards. As is typical in local authority investigations commenced by one local council, their findings and potential concerns were circulated nationally. In this case, other interventions followed, with further unannounced visits carried out by local authorities in Berkshire and East Sussex, where similar issues were discovered. All three cases led to prosecutions.

All three sets of proceedings were dealt in December of last year and the company was fined over a £1,000,000 in total for the offences. Quite tellingly in the sentencing Judge’s remarks was the observation that to “blame the local management is not only deeply unattractive…but quite unfair”.

Whilst the size of Pound Stretcher undoubtedly affected the size of the fine, it is worthy of note that such a significant penalty was imposed by the Court, regardless of the facts that no accident had occurred and neither had any harm had been caused to anyone.

I will leave it to you to assess how the Courts would have dealt with the situation, should have there been a fire or other accident.

Whilst you may have considered, when you started to read this, the tidiness of your back-of-house areas, including stockroom or cellar, to be incidental to your operation (and, let’s be honest a bit of a distraction), I would like to hope that the case of Pound Stretcher reinforces the need for your premises to be kept in good order, tidy and free from obstructions if you want to avoid what is a eye-watering financial penalty for a state of affairs which can all too easily occur in any premises.