When we think of employees being subjected to dangerous work conditions, we might not think of a store like Dollar General. However, the discount retail store has a long track record of violations of OSHA safety standards.
According to FairWarning, “in a recent 12-month period [Dollar General] racked up citations at 34 of its stores…” and many of those citations are “willful” and “repeat” OSHA violations.
Two safety issues that have beleaguered the retail chain are:
- 1) ensuring exits remain unobstructed; and
- 2) stacking and storing materials and boxes in a safe manner.
29 CFR 1910.37(a)(3): Exit routes(s) were not kept free and unobstructed,” as well as “29 CFR 1910.176(b): Material stored in tiers was not stacked, blocked, interlocked or limited in height so that it was stable and secure against sliding and collapse.”
In only the past quarter of 2019, Dollar General has racked up over a million dollars in proposed fines. In September, OSHA cited four Boise, Idaho locations with proposed penalties of $898,682 for “exposing employees to unsafe storage of merchandise, and blocked walkways and exit routes.”
In October, OSHA cited an Athens, GA store with proposed penalties of $125,026 for “exposing employees to struck-by, trip and fall hazards…blocked emergency exits” among other findings.
In December, OSHA cited a store in Rainbow City, AL with proposed penalties of $104,192 for “exposing employees to struck-by hazards by failing to ensure the stacking of cases of merchandise in excess of 8 feet high in a stable manner.” OSHA’s strategy is now to continue to hit them with bigger and bigger fines until they implement changes.
These two issues – blocked exit routes and improperly stacked/stored materials – have been ongoing so long that Dollar General has been cited with and must now provide abatement documentation and certification once they have been addressed and remedied.
However, Dollar General has not followed through with its promises to abate these safety concerns. Unfortunately, according to their latest settlement in December, they are more inclined to pay hefty fines as a short-term fix than invest in long-term solutions that address the actual safety problems.
They have not changed their system of automatically generated shipments based on sales data, so store loading zones continue to be dangerously overstocked. And the retailer still employs minimal staff, primarily to run the sales floor.
The origins of safety regulations concerning blocked exits date back to the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, where over 140 people lost their lives in 1911 due to being locked in a building where there was a fire.
When those laws are disregarded, employees will inevitably get injured on the job. Unfortunately for them, it may take more OSHA fines, investor concerns, and worker’s compensation cases to give employees the safety they deserve.