OSHA Proposes More Fines for Dollar General

07 Nov, 2022 Liz Carey

                               

Atlanta, GA (WorkersCompensation.com) - OSHA issued another $2.7 million in proposed penalties for Dollar General after a series of inspections found that conditions at seven stores posed hazards for workers. 

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had inspected seven Dollar General facilities between April 28 and June 3 in Clay, Dothan, Odenville and Town Creek, Ala.; Darien and West Point, Ga.; and Panama City Beach, Fla. During those inspections the agency identified 31 violations exposing workers to unsafe conditions. 

As a result, the DOL said, OSHA has proposed $2,777,640 in penalties for 11 willful, 16 repeat and four serious violations. In addition to conditions that put employees at risk of being struck and blocked exit hazards, the agency cited the company for failing to label, mount or make fire extinguishers accessible; storing boxed in front of electrical panels, increasing the risk of fire and electrical hazards, failing to use exit signs to facilitate safe exit in the event of an emergency, exposing workers to electrocution by not keeping unused opening in electrical cabinets closed and not providing handrails on stairs where required. 

The agency said the violation in the seven stores are similar to ones OSHA has proposed other penalties for. Over the course of the past five years, OSHA has levied more than $12 million in penalties against Dollar General Corp. and Dolgencorp, LLC. 

Last month, inspections at four Dollar General stores in Alabama, Florida and Georgia found numerous hazards resulting in OSHA proposing $1.6 million in penalties. Those violations came after inspections in August at three Georgia locations resulted in nearly $1.3 million in penalties, and inspections in February a locations in Alabama and Georgia that resulted in $1.05 million in penalties, and a December 2021 inspection in Alabama that resulted in $321,000 in penalties. 

"Dollar General has shown a pattern of alarmingly willful disregard for federal safety standards, choosing to place profits over their employees' safety and well-being," said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "Neighborhood stores exist to support the needs of their communities – the same communities in which many Dollar General employees live – and that support must include following laws designed to keep workers safe from preventable injuries or worse." 

The violations have qualified Dollar General Corp for inclusion in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), the agency said. 

In that program, severe offenders are subject to enhanced penalties, mandatory follow-up inspections within a year of the citations, regional or nationwide inspection of the employer's related workplaces and publication of the employer's SVEP status through news releases. 

In order to qualify for the SVEP program, a company must have a fatality or catastrophe inspection with one or more willful or repeated violations or failure to abate notices; a non-fatality/catastrophic inspection with two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices related to high-emphasis hazards or the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical; or is an egregious case, e.g. the per-instance citations. 

“Preventing employees from freely, safely and quickly exiting a workplace in an emergency can lead to serious injuries or worse,” said OSHA Area Director Kevin T. Chambers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last year. “Dollar General Corp. has a substantial history of the same violations and hazards found at its stores all over the country. Their repeated failures to correct these violations must end before an emergency leads to a tragedy.” 

Representatives for Dollar General also did not respond to requests for comment. 

Dollar General is based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., and operates about 18,000 stores and 17 distribution centers in 47 states, employing more than 150,000 workers. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to either comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or to contest the findings before an independent review commission. 

OSHA said in previous releases that it has received complaints about Dollar General from its employees since 2006. Between 2006 and 2016, the company was cited for 240 safety violations including willful and repeat violations. 

The agency previously said Adam Zager, Dollar General Corp.'s director of risk management, had signed several agreements promising to resolve violations at the company's stores. However, OSHA did not respond to requests for comment on where those agreements stood, or whether there was ever any follow up with the company in regard to those agreements.


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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