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Dollar General ‘Puts Profit Before People’: OSHA

Dollar General has a bad habit of violating federal workplace safety regulations in its stores.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued more than $15 million in fines to the discount retail giant since 2017 after finding what it calls “willful, repeat and serious” workplace safety violations across 180 store inspections nationwide.

The most recent fines, announced Thursday, stem from violations that occurred in June and July 2022. On June 26, OSHA inspectors discovered that two of Dollar General’s Florida stores in Middleburg and Green Cove Springs had merchandise blocking exit routes, exposing workers to fire and entrapment hazards.

OSHA issued citations for two repeat violations at the Florida locations, levying $196,438 in proposed penalties.

Less than a month later, on July 13, OSHA inspectors again found merchandise blocking exit routes at a Dollar General store, this time in Double Springs, Ala. They found unstable stockpile of boxes and merchandise that put workers at risk of being struck by falling objects.

OSHA proposed $205,117 in fines for the two repeat violations.

Dollar General has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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Dollar General has not yet responded to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.

Workplace safety issues have become an all too common problem for the Tennessee-based Dollar General across its more than 18,000 stores. In a statement about the most recent fines, OSHA regional administrator Kurt Petermeyer didn’t mince words.

“Dollar General’s growing record of disregard for safety measures makes it abundantly clear that the company puts profit before people,” Petermeyer said. “These violations are preventable, and failing to prevent them shows a blatant disregard for the workers on whom they depend to keep their stores operating. OSHA continues to make every effort to hold Dollar General accountable for its failures.”

In the past 11 months, OSHA inspections at 19 stores in Alabama, Florida and Georgia have identified dozens of similar violations. These types of hazards present serious risks for employees and others in an emergency, as well as the potential for them to be struck by unsafely stacked boxes in storerooms and elsewhere.

Seven inspections from April 28 through June 3 in Clay, Dothan, Odenville and Town Creek, Ala.; Darien and West Point, Ga.; and Panama City Beach, Fla., identified 31 violations that led to more than $2.7 million in penalties in November. These violations are similar to those found at other Dollar General stores where litigation is pending, OSHA said.

The violations issued as the result of the inspections qualified Dollar General for inclusion in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The similar violations stem from other investigations within Dollar General stores throughout 2022. Four inspections across stores in Mobile and Grove Hill, Ala.; Tampa, Fla.; and Dewy Rose, Ga., uncovered numerous hazards in April. Inspectors later cited the retailer for four willful and 10 repeat violations for failing to keep receiving and storage areas clean and orderly, and stacking materials in an unsafe manner.

These violations exposed workers to hazards associated with slips, trips and being struck by objects. OSHA proposed penalties of more than $1.6 million in October.

Three inspections across more stores in Hogansville, Pembroke and Smyrna, Ga., found workers exposed to fire, electrical and entrapment hazards, resulting in proposed penalties of more than $1.2 million in August. Four more inspections in Mobile, Ala., and Dalton, Ga., led to an additional $1 million in proposed penalties.

An inspection in Thomasville, Ga., found merchandise blocking an electrical panel and the store’s only emergency exit door in the area, resulting in $290,054 in proposed penalties.

Dollar General isn’t the only retailer attracting the feds for a failure to comply with workplace safety regulations. Last month, when the Thomasville store was cited for a violation, OSHA also pointed a finger at TJX for also lagging in store safety.

In June, OSHA investigators at a T.J. Maxx store in Pooler, Ga. found that unsafely stacked merchandise exposed workers to harm from falling boxes. The boxes also could have hindered exiting the site during an emergency, OSHA said. The firm cited the off-price retailer for putting workers at risk of fire, entrapment and struck-by hazards, and proposed $239,290 in penalties for two repeat violations and one serious violation.

OSHA doesn’t just target stores in its retail investigations—it also inspects warehouses. Last week the government agency fined Amazon more than $60,269 for general warehouse safety violations and for failing to record some warehouse injuries. According to OSHA, inspections at three warehouse facilities in Deltona, Fla.; Waukegan, Ill.; and New Windsor, N.Y. found that workers were exposed to ergonomic hazards. OSHA is currently investigating several deaths that occurred at New Jersey and Pennsylvania fulfillment centers last summer.