Dollar Tree Inc. Agrees to Sweeping Safety Deal After 403 OSHA Violations. Is Dollar General Next?

Dollar Tree Inc. has agreed to a corporate-wide settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor after the discount retail company received 403 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) store safety violations during more than 360 inspections since 2017.

Under the agreement, Dollar Tree must conduct a comprehensive, nationwide assessment of the root causes of the violations OSHA has repeatedly cited at multiple Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, with a plan to make operational changes to correct them within two years.

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“Dollar Tree and Family Dollar have been working with us in good faith for years to reduce these hazards, and we believe it has proposed a plan that is genuinely going to make a significant impact on improving safety and health for its workers,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker, in a media briefing unveiling the agreement Tuesday.

To ensure it quickly mitigates any future violations related to blocked exits, unsafely stacked boxes, access to fire extinguishers and electrical panels and improper material storage at stores nationwide, the dollar store company must correct hazards and later submit proof the hazards were corrected within within 48 hours of receiving OSHA’s notification.

“Even if a single complaint is issued, the company is not only required to fix the hazard in that store, they have to conduct a review of all of the stores in that district manager’s jurisdiction to make sure that there are no comparable hazards,” Parker said.

If it doesn’t meet this requirement, the company will pay up to $100,000 per day per violation, or $500,000 maximum, on top of OSHA inspection and enforcement actions..

“By securing this agreement with Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, the department is making good on President Biden’s commitment to be the most pro-worker administration in history,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, in a statement. “At the Department of Labor, we know that every worker deserves to come home safe at the end of the workday. Through our robust enforcement of workplace protections and use of innovative legal methods that resulted in this agreement, thousands of workers will have a healthier, safer, and more certain future.”

As part of the settlement, Dollar Tree Inc. is paying up $1.35 million in penalties to settle contested and open inspections and similar alleged violations.

The agreement, which was official as of Thursday, covers 10,000 Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores within federal OSHA jurisdiction.

Under the deal, Dollar Tree Inc. will form safety advisory groups with extensive employee representation, enhance its current hazard identification and control programs, develop an audit program, create a new employee training program and hire additional safety professionals.

Dollar Tree has also agreed to maintain a 24-hour hotline to receive safety complaints and establish a tracking system to ensure complaints are addressed. The deal also includes “very strong anti-retaliation protections,” U.S. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda told media.

The company will also hold quarterly meetings between OSHA, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar to discuss progress towards systemic improvements. If the current agreement is unsuccessful, or if the retail company balks at addressing systemic problems, OSHA can terminate the agreement.

While one common area of concern is understaffing, the agreement doesn’t directly address this point.

According to Parker, requiring Dollar Tree Inc. to hire more safety professionals does not extend to adding more store staff. Instead, under the agreement, the company will identify “challenge stores” that have a high volume of safety concerns relative to storage space.

“They’re going to have to come up with solutions in those stores,” said Parker. “That could be changing the logistics process for how they stock stores. That could be staffing. That could be making sure that they do not receive shipments near the end of the day or at a time when people are on breaks. It doesn’t require staffing, but I believe it does address the problem of having an imbalance between staff and shipments that need to be unloaded.”

When asked about a potential settlement agreement with Dollar General, Nanda said the agency has been in active discussions with the retailer, but couldn’t comment further.

“As a general matter—not speaking about any particular employer—we are always interested in solving systemic issues that get at the underlying problems in cases,” Nanda said.

Dollar General has been flagged for more than $21 million in OSHA penalties since 2017 during 240-plus inspections.

For Dollar Tree, this is the Chesapeake, Va.-headquartered retailer’s second corporate-wide settlement agreement with the Department of Labor. The first agreement lasted from 2015 to 2018.

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