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Dollar General, TJX Playing Fast and Loose With Worker Safety

Dollar General and TJ Maxx’s parent company faces new fines for lapses in workplace safety.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited worker and consumer safety issues at a number of the the dollar chain’s 18,000 stores. Most recently, a Thomasville, Ga. Dollar General store was found to have merchandise blocking an electrical panel and the sole emergency exit. Repeat violations in June earned Dollar General Corp. and subsidiary Dolgencorp LLC two citations and $290,054 in proposed penalties, OSHA reported on Wednesday.

Since February, 18 Dollar General stores have been flagged for similar violations. OSHA said conditions in Alabama, Florida and Georgia Dollar General stores presented serious risks for employees and customers during an emergency, including unsafely stacked boxes that could fall on anyone nearby. The Springfield, Ky. company has been fined more than $15 million since 2017 due workplace safety violations, and its stores have been inspected more than 180 times.

Inspections in the Southeast have resulted in millions of dollars in fines for the company in 2022 alone. OSHA identified 31 violations during seven inspections in the Alabama cities of Clay, Dothan, Odenville and Town Creek, along with Panama City Beach, Fla. and Darien and West Point, Ga., charging Dollar General and Dolgencorp more than $2.7 million in November.

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Meanwhile, other inspections in Mobile and Grove Hill, Ala., Tampa, Fla. and Dewy Rose, Ga., led OSHA to propose more than $1.68 million in penalties in October. Probes in Hogansville, Pembroke and Smyrna, Ga., found that workers were subject to fire, electrical, and entrapment danger, leading to proposed penalties of roughly $1.3 million in August. Early in the year, four inspections in Mobile, Alabama, and Dalton, Georgia, led to more than $1 million in fines.

“Dollar General has a long history of disregarding safety measures that could compromise the well-being of the people who work there, and that has to change,” OSHA Atlanta, Ga. regional administrator Kurt Petermeyer said. “The violations cited in these investigations are preventable, and OSHA will make every effort to hold Dollar General accountable for their failures.”

Dollar General, which employs 150,000 workers in 47 states, qualifies for OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The company has 15 days from the receipt of its citations to pay penalties, request an informal meeting with OSHA area directors, or contest the findings in front of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

TJX Companies—owner of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods—is similarly lagging in store safety.

At a T.J. Maxx store in Pooler, Ga., OSHA investigators found that unsafely merchandise stacked exposed workers to harm from falling boxes and could have hindered exiting the site during an emergency. OSHA cited the Massachusetts-based company for putting workers at risk of fire, entrapment and struck-by hazards in June. An excessive number of cardboard boxes and other waste materials were also found in the storage and receiving room, which could potentially cause workers to slip and fall. OSHA proposed $239,290 in penalties, citing TJX for two repeat violations, and one serious violation.

In January, investigators identified similar conditions at a T.J. Maxx store in Peoria, Ill. Citations date back to May 2020, when a Jacksonville, Fla. store also failed an OSHA inspection. The employer of 340,000 workers in 4,700 stores has 15 days to respond to the citations or comply with the latest penalties.

“The U.S. Department of Labor will not allow employers like TJX Companies Inc. to put their workers at risk by repeatedly violating federal safety standards,” OSHA Savannah, Ga. acting area office director Jerred Stevens said. “These standards exist to protect workers from needless harm during their routine workday, especially in an emergency.”

“The hazards often found in busy retail stores are easily addressed but, left ignored, they can jeopardize workers,” he added.