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Dollar General Doesn’t Seem to Think $15 Million Penalty Bill Is Big Enough

When federal workplace safety inspectors opened an investigation at a Dollar General store in Columbus, Ohio, they discovered violations that were all too familiar and the kind that has led to more than $15 million in proposed penalties since 2017 for one of the nation’s largest discount retailers.

On May 24, inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found merchandise they said were stacked unsafely, excessive clutter and unsanitary conditions, and unmarked emergency exits in the storeroom of a Dollar General store at 3636 Lockbourne Road. OSHA cited the store—operated by DolGen Midwest LLC—for four repeated safety violations and proposed penalties of $341,842.

A 2021 inspection at a South Euclid, Ohio, store also operated by DolGen Midwest found merchandise blocking storeroom exits. Since 2017, OSHA has cited parent companies Dollar General Corp. and Dolgencorp LLC for “willful, repeat and serious workplace safety violations” identified in more than 180 inspections nationwide. OSHA has included Dollar General Corp. in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“Dollar General Corp.’s willingness to avoid its legal responsibility for the safety of its employees is difficult to understand,” said OSHA area director Larry Johnson in Columbus. “Time and time again, we find the company overfilling its storerooms and allowing merchandise to block aisles and emergency exits, and be stacked high over the heads of many workers. These are conditions that endanger workers during the normal course of business and create the potential for disaster in an emergency.”

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In its inspections of Dollar General stores, OSHA said it typically finds workers exposed to the risks of being struck by boxes of unsafely stacked or stored merchandise, unable to safely use storeroom aisles and emergency exits, and in danger of hazards caused by merchandise blocking electrical panels.

At the Columbus store, OSHA inspectors cited the company for violations related to the hazards that included not keeping the storeroom clean, orderly and in sanitary condition; not storing material safely; failing to use exit signs in storerooms to ensure the ability to exit safely in an emergency, and failing to mount fire extinguishers.

Based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., Dollar General Corp. and Dolgencorp operate about 18,000 stores and 17 distribution centers in 47 states and employ more than 150,000 workers. The publicly traded company reported $33.7 billion in sales in fiscal year 2020.

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.