In what has become a regular occurrence, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) again cited a prominent discount retailer, Dollar General, for repeated OSHA violations. According to the citation, the retailer exposed employees and others to unsafe workplace conditions at a location in Florida. As of this post, OSHA has assessed more than $16 million in fines against the retailer since 2017. In general, OSHA has increased enforcement efforts across the board. In March 2023, the agency discussed its priorities, including increased inspections.
Overview of the OSHA Violations
In October 2022, OSHA inspectors found several OSHA violations in the form of unaddressed fire and entrapment hazards at the Florida Dollar General location. Specifically, shelving, rolling containers, and merchandise were blocking exit routes at the location. Items that block dedicated exit routes present additional hazards during an emergency evacuation. OSHA inspectors discovered that merchandise blocked regular walkways, as well. In addition, inspectors found that stacked items were unstable. This exposed workers to trip and struck-by hazards.
Employer Obligations Under the OSH Act
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), which established OSHA, sets and enforces workplace safety and health standards. In doing so, it assures safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women. Notably, the OSH Act’s “General Duty Clause” requires that all employers:
- shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; and
- shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
In compliance with the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause and to avoid OSHA safety violations and costly litigation, employers should recognize and fix common workplace hazards. Indeed, these common workplace hazards include safety hazards like blocked exit routes, trip hazards, and unstable stacked items.
Proposed Penalties for the OSHA Violations
OSHA cited the retailer for one willful violation and two repeat violations. In sum, the retailer faces $401,812 in newly proposed penalties for the violations. Since 2017, however, Dollar General has received citations in more than 180 inspections nationwide for similar OSHA violations. From February 1st, 2022, to March 13th, 2023, alone, OSHA assessed the retailer with $8.5 million in penalties after inspections at 27 locations. In response to the most recent citation in Florida, the retailer contested the agency’s findings, bringing them before independent review.