Discount retailer Dollar General is facing $395,717 in new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines for five repeat workplace safety violations, the agency announced January 23. In an inspection of a West Lafayette, Ohio, location, federal investigators found workers exposed to blocked emergency exits and electrical panels and boxes of merchandise stacked at unsafe heights.
According to the agency, Dollar General and its corporate parent, Dolgencorp LLC, also face 100 open safety investigations nationwide. OSHA has fined Dolgencorp and Dollar General more than $15 million since 2017 for willful, repeat, and serious workplace safety violations.
Dollar General and Dolgencorp, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, operate more than 18,000 stores and 17 distribution centers in 47 states, employing about 167,000 full- and part-time workers, according to OSHA.
“Dollar General continues to intentionally ignore federal safety standards while the company’s defiance shows they value profits more than the safety and wellbeing of employees,” Larry Johnson, OSHA’s Columbus, Ohio, area director, said in an agency statement.
“Dollar General’s unwillingness to make changes across its organization and, as importantly, at stores where hazards persist should be a serious concern for workers and shoppers alike.”
Safety violations cited at the West Lafayette store included:
- Storing boxed material stacked more than 7 feet high on rolling containers throughout the retail area;
- Blocking exit routes and the building’s south exit with wheeled carts, boxes, and bins;
- Allowing open bags of food, boxes, and bins to be spread throughout the store;
- Obstructing access to fire extinguishers with a ladder, boxes, and carts; and
- Blocking access to electrical panels with boxes, bins, and carts.
OSHA already placed Dolgencorp and Dollar General in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Companies in the SVEP are subject to mandatory follow-up inspections, enhanced settlement provisions, and possible enforcement action in federal court. Last year, OSHA expanded its criteria for placing employers in the SVEP.
However, the agency also decided to allow employers to exit the program early by accepting settlement agreements that include safety and health management programs that meet OSHA guidelines.
The agency has cited Dollar General’s competitor, Dollar Tree Stores Inc., operator of Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, for similar violations. In December, the agency announced a pair of six-figure fines for repeat and serious violations at stores in Georgia and Michigan.
In more than 500 inspections at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar locations since 2017, federal OSHA and state inspectors have found more than 300 violations, according to the agency.
OSHA has also cited Target stores for blocked exit routes and exits and unsafe storage of merchandise. In October 2020, Target Corporation agreed to pay $464,750 in reduced penalties to resolve eight cases before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Exits and exit routes, or “means of egress,” have been foundational worker safety protections since 146 factory workers died in the March 25, 1911, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Under OSHA regulations, exit routes must be kept free of obstruction, and exit doors must be clearly marked and remain unlocked from the inside.