EHS Administration, Enforcement and Inspection

Dollar General Stores Cited for Blocked, Padlocked Exits

On June 3, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced citations for two Dollar General stores for endangering employee safety by blocking and locking emergency exits. The agency cited the company for workplace safety violations nationwide.

OSHA cited Dolgencorp, LLC, doing business as Dollar General Store, for four willful violations at its Baldwin, Wisconsin, store. In December 2021, agency inspectors responded to a referral from local fire officials and found emergency exit doors were closed and padlocked on the inside with a bike lock and a board. Boxes of merchandise blocked exit routes. In an emergency, conditions in the store would have prevented workers and others from exiting the store through the emergency exits.

Store managers told OSHA inspectors the exit doors needed repairs to close properly and frequently were padlocked and blocked with a board while employees were present. OSHA determined that Dollar General had allowed the doors to remain in disrepair since September 2021.

Fire officials inspected the store 11 times in 2021 and ordered the facility closed 6 times due to hazardous conditions, according to OSHA.  

Willful violations cited by the agency included blocking emergency routes, exits, and fire extinguishers and failing to leave adequate space around electrical panels. The agency proposed penalties of $435,081.

On January 11, at a Dollar General store in Seville, Ohio, OSHA inspectors discovered barrel locks on the inside of a double-door emergency exit that requires special knowledge and additional time to open, which could prevent a safe and quick exit in an emergency. The agency cited the store for 1 willful violation and proposed $145,027 in penalties.

“OSHA cites Dollar General stores frequently for exposing workers to serious hazards, including the use of locks at exits, which can be catastrophic in an emergency,” William Donovan, OSHA’s Chicago regional administrator, said in an agency statement. “This company’s willingness to gamble with workers’ lives is disturbing and must stop before tragedy strikes.”

In February, OSHA announced it fined Dollar General more than $3.6 million after conducting 55 inspections at Dollar General stores nationwide. In addition to citations for blocked exit routes, OSHA cited Dollar General stores for unstable box stacking and blocked working spaces around electrical panels.

Exit routes, or means of egress, are a foundational worker safety protection that can be traced to the March 25, 1911, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that resulted in 146 factory workers’ deaths due to locked exit doors.

OSHA has cited repeated violations of its exit routes standards (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910 Subpart E) at other retail chains, including Dollar Tree Stores and Target. The agency has inspected Dollar Tree locations hundreds of times. Over a 5-year period, OSHA citations of Dollar Tree locations came with proposed penalties of more than $9.3 million.

In 2020, Target Corporation agreed to pay $464,750 in penalties to resolve a series of OSHA cases before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA cited Target locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York for violations that included blocked or obstructed access to emergency exits and fire exit routes and/or unsafe storage of materials in stores’ backrooms and storage areas.