Poundstretcher Boss facing Health and Safety Trial
The Swindon Advertiser recently reported that Abdul Tayub, boss of Poundstretcher, is to stand trial this year charged with health and safety offences.
Poundstretcher has already pleaded guilty to a number of health and safety offences. The breaches are said to have occurred over a number of days at one of its stores in 2014. Swindon Borough Council, which is prosecuting the case, alleges that these offences were committed with Mr Tayub’s consent or connivance or were attributable to his neglect.
Directors and senior managers can be prosecuted under s37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for their company’s health and safety failures. Cases often do not proceed at trial on the basis of consent or connivance (turning a blind eye) unless there is clear evidence of this. Usually it is on the basis of neglect with the prosecution alleging that the defendant failed to do their job properly and this led to the company’s offending.
There is an increasing trend to charge senior individuals alongside their companies. For example in 2014 Mervyn Owen director of Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Ltd, was fined £183,000 and banned from being a company director for five years after pleading guilty to breaching s37. The prosecution followed the death of an employee killed while working on machinery. His company pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter. Today, with the new sentencing guidelines that came into force on 1 February 2016, it is likely Mr Owen would have received a custodial sentence.
Senior person can find themselves in the firing line of an investigation simply because they were in charge when things went wrong and the investigator does not fully understand the nature of that person’s role. Therefore key to defending a charge under s37 is demonstrating the extent of that person’s role and what exactly they were directly responsible for.
Directors will usually have a good defence if they can show that there were health and safety systems in place, that those systems were regularly audited and that the managers responsible for operations were trained and competent.