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Behind Dollar General’s 1-Week $798K OSHA Bill

Dollar General is under fire for unsafe working conditions—again.

The Tennessee-based discount retailer has racked up more than $16 million in fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 2017 after nearly 200 inspections, and now the serial violator is facing roughly $552,000 in fines for safety failures in stores near Houston and Green Bay, Texas. Federal workplace safety investigators found exit routes and walkways blocked, which are unsafe conditions that make safe and quick emergency evacuation difficult or impossible. But these are now “common discoveries” at the retailer, OSHA said.

“Once again, federal workplace safety inspectors have found Dollar General ignoring required safety measures and allowing blocked emergency exits and walkways that endanger everyone who works and shops at stores where these violations exist,” said Eric S. Harbin, OSHA regional administrator in Dallas, in a statement. “Seconds lost trying to move boxes to reach a fire extinguisher or get out a safety exit can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. Allowing unsafe conditions like these to exist is a tragedy waiting to happen.”

In Waller, Texas, OSHA opened an inspection in October 2022 and found blocked exits and walkways, with workers at risk of being struck by falling boxes and boxes blocking electrical panels. The workers’ safety watchdog issued Dollar General a citation for three safety repeat violations and proposed $294,657 for these failures. The violations were labeled as “serious repeat” harms and referenced previous violations in March 2020 at a Galesburg, Illinois, location and two September 2020 violations in Bergen, New Jersey. The violations must be ameliorated by April 19, with each proposed penalty amounting to $98,219.

And in Oconto Falls, Wisconsin, OSHA inspectors found stacks of merchandise and rolling containers blocking many exit routes, including a storeroom emergency exit, in December 2022. On top of boxes in storage being in danger of falling on employees, inspectors also identified electrical hazards caused by unsafe electrical boxes as well as cords and cables misused. This amounted to three repeated safety violations (all labeled as “serious repeat” as well) issued to the store’s operator, DolGen Midwest LLC—a company subsidiary—with proposed penalties amounting to $257,829, bringing the total amount of fines against Dollar General to $552,486.

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“Dollar General continues to put profits before the safety and well-being of store employees despite fines of more than $16 million since 2017 and violations at more than 180 locations,” OSHA area director Robert Bonack in Appleton, Wisconsin, said in a statement. “Despite reporting billions in profits in 2022, Dollar General has not used its vast resources to make the kinds of companywide changes needed to provide a safe workplace.”

Considering the vast number of infringements, OSHA added Dollar General to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, concentrating resources on inspecting employers who have committed willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations and demonstrated indifference to their legal obligations to provide a safe workplace.

Just six days before the half-a-million-dollar fines were announced, OSHA found Dollar General again exposing workers to dangerous safety hazards, including blocked emergency exit routes and electrical panels, this time during a November 2022 inspection at a Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, store. In response to a complaint, OSHA began an inspection at the store and identified safety violations similar to those discovered throughout the United States and issued one repeat violation with $245,544 in proposed penalties.  

“Exposing employees to these hazards can be dangerous, especially in an emergency,” Mary Reynolds, OSHA area director in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Dollar General Corp. has a substantial history of the same violations and hazards found at stores all around the U.S. They must end their repeated failures to correct these violations before an emergency turns tragic.”

Last month, OSHA fined the discount retailer $254,478 for three repeat violations in Ohio and roughly $1 million for eight repeat violations across four stores in Florida and Georgia. In January, Dollar General was hit with a $205,117 citation for two stores in Florida and Alabama and five repeated safety violations with proposed penalties of $395,717 for a store in Ohio.

That brings the total dollar amount to just shy of $2.5 million for 21 violations in the first four months of 2023.

Dollar General did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.