Busy Shopping Season Leads to Hazards
In the midst of the holiday shopping season, retailers are pushing hard to make a large percentage of their profits for the year. Shelves are piled high, aisles are crowded with special displays and decorations, doorways are blocked by excess stock and discarded packaging. The stockpiling of goods for sale creates many hazards for employees, leading to falling boxes and even blocked exits in the event of a fire.
OSHA Cites Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. After Complaint
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected the Dollar Tree Stores Inc. location in Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood and concluded that employees could be subject to such safety issues as blocked exits and a jam-packed stockroom. The agency assessed $177,800 in proposed fines against Dollar Tree. OSHA inspected the store after an employee complained to the agency’s Braintree Area Office.
OSHA officials condemned the company as having committed repeat offenses and showing no motivation to correct previous workplace safety problems. An inspector had notified the store’s management of problems at one inspection but discovered to his dismay on a subsequent visit that no steps had been taken and the same hazardous conditions existed, compromising employees’ health and safety.
The inspector had paid a visit in December 2013 and saw a stockroom filled with towering and unstable piles of merchandise, creating the potential for objects to fall on workers, causing serious injuries. The store’s emergency exits were routinely obstructed by shopping carts, merchandise waiting to be put on display, and even trash waiting to be dumped. There was also no safe access to the store circuit breakers, so there was no means of shutting off power, should there be a shock or electrocution hazard requiring such a shut-off. When the inspector returned six months later, he found virtually the same conditions.
Penalties and Repeat Offenses
All in all, OSHA found ample evidence to support citing Dollar Tree for three willful violations, demonstrating the employer’s intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or plain indifference to worker safety and health, requiring $174,500 in fines. OSHA also cited the company for one serious violation, one where there was substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known, with a $3,300 fine, for allowing trash and garbage to accumulate throughout the stockroom, creating tripping and exit hazards for the workers.
Dollar Tree’s miserable safety record is not limited to Massachusetts. Headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia, Dollar Tree Stores is a large single-price-point retailer, operating 5,080 stores in 48 states and five Canadian provinces. Its stores have been inspected 153 times nationally over 19 years and cited for 453 violations of OSHA standards. The willful violations found at the Roslindale store were the same as willful violations for which Dollar Tree has been cited nationally 51 times in the last five years.
OSHA officials were indignant at Dollar Tree’s repeat offenses and failure to modify its practices to safeguard its own employees against serious injury or even death. It is a large company with more than 5,000 locations nationwide and a large workforce depending on their employer for their well-being while at work. The company had 15 business days from receipt of its latest citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
If you are hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate whether you have a sound claim and fight to make sure that your employer and its insurer follow the rules or give you guidance if there is no insurance available. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.