OSHA Proposes $365k Fines To Rochester's Wal-Mart For Hazards

                               Buffalo, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for a total of 24 alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its supercenter store No. 2859 in Rochester. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer faces a total of $365,500 in proposed fines following inspections conducted by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office initiated in response to a complaint.

"The sizable fines proposed here reflect not only the seriousness of these conditions but the fact that several of them are substantially similar to hazards identified at nine other Wal-Mart locations in New York and eight other states," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "This situation is unacceptable. A corporate employer must take effective and proactive steps to assess, correct and prevent the recurrence of hazards at all of its locations."

The Rochester inspections led OSHA to identify fall hazards, obstructed exit routes, an absence of lockout/tagout procedures for energy sources that would allow employees to safely perform maintenance on a compactor, an unguarded grinder, no training for employees using personal protective equipment, a lack of eye and face protection, and a lack of information and training on hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These conditions resulted in citations for 10 repeat violations with $288,000 in fines.

A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. In this case, OSHA had cited Wal-Mart for similar hazards between 2008 and 2010 at workplaces in South Mobile, Ala.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Plant City, Fla.; Rincon, Ga.; Jerseyville, Ill.; Festus, Mo.; Queensbury, N.Y.; Fargo, N.D.; and Tulsa, Okla.

In addition, the Rochester inspections revealed workers exposed to confined space hazards due to management's failure to conduct evaluations in locations such as compactors, develop a confined space entry program, provide employees with confined space training and share confined space information with contractors performing work in the store. Other hazards were a bypassed interlock switch that allowed a compactor to be operated with its door open, additional lockout/tagout deficiencies, an illegible emergency exit sign, and an incomplete bloodborne pathogen program and training for employees whose duties involve exposure to blood or body fluids. These conditions resulted in citations for 14 serious violations with $77,500 in proposed fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"One method by which employers can prevent recurring hazards is developing and maintaining an effective illness and injury prevention program in which management and employees work together to proactively identify and prevent hazardous conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Walmart315502476-315502880-01-27-12.pdf.*

Wal-Mart Stores has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Buffalo office at 716-551-3053.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

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