It’s not a construction company or an organization that deals with heavy machinery or dangerous chemicals. A top dangerous workplace–due to repeated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations–is Dollar General.
The U.S. Department of Labor has repeatedly found Dollar General exposing workers to what it calls “dangerous safety hazards.” The latest violations include a November inspection at a Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania store, where hazards included blocked emergency exit routes and electrical panels. HR Dive reports that OSHA has found dozens of blocked exit violations at 19 stores in Alabama, Florida and Georgia as well. And, in April, OSHA discovered “obstructed exits, walkways and electrical panels as well as workers exposed to struck-by hazards, specifically from boxes” at a Texas Dollar General as well as “similar conditions, such as exit routes and an emergency exit obstructed by stacked merchandise” in Wisconsin.
In all, Dollar General has chalked up $15 million in penalties since 2017. This Jersey Shore inspection comes after more than 180 OSHA investigations of the retailer nationwide.
Can OSHA “target” an employer, show up unannounced at any nationwide location, and dole out giant penalties? Not exactly. You need to be viewed as an exceptionally dangerous workplace first. And that’s what’s happened with Dollar General. The employer was recently added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), “which concentrates resources on inspecting employers that have demonstrated indifference to [OSHA] obligations by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”
“Under the program,” CNBC notes, “OSHA officials can inspect a store at random, without a direct complaint about working conditions.” CNBC adds that the program “was traditionally aimed at companies with notably unsafe working conditions, like manufacturers or construction firms.” As a retailer, Dollar General is the first of its kind to be added (the list is mainly filled with construction, roofing, and industrial companies).
What does Dollar General have to say about this top dangerous workplace distinction? “As a growing retailer serving thousands of communities across the country, Dollar General is committed to providing a safe work environment for its associates and shopping experience for its customers,” the company said in a statement to Retail Dive. “We regularly review and refine our safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability. When we learn of situations where we have failed to live up to this commitment, we work to timely address the issue and ensure that the company’s expectations regarding safety are clearly communicated, understood and implemented.”
OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer disagrees, saying, “Dollar General’s growing record of disregard for safety measures makes it abundantly clear that the company puts profit before people. 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.”
As SHRM reports, there is an essential takeaway for other employers who may be dancing the line on repeat violations: Yes, Dollar General racking up millions of dollars and 180+ violations may not be relatable, but what he says really landed them on the OSHA’s shameful SVEP list is just two repeat violations at one site, “which will happen all too easily” in a regular course of business, regardless of scale. Those violations can include shortcomings in hiring and training inexperienced workers and other challenges that The HT Group can help you overcome so that you don’t become America’s next top dangerous workplace.