The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regularly issues press releases announcing citations and penalties that follow a safety inspection. But this month, OSHA issued a press release that recounted an alleged history of neglect of employee safety by Dollar General, a major retailer. The press release followed assessment of a $321,000 penalty issued in conjunction with alleged repeat violations in the storage room of an Alabama store.
This release is unusual because OSHA directly accuses the employer of “a long history of disregarding safety measures to prevent serious injury or death in the event of a fire or other emergency.” The press release says, “This company’s troubled history of workplace safety violations must come to an end, and OSHA will make every effort to hold them accountable for their failures.”
OSHA’s attempted public shaming of an employer may reflect a new strategy to bring consumer and other pressure on companies it views as unresponsive to traditional enforcement efforts. Employers may view this tactic as especially unfair given that the citations issued in this case are not final and may eventually be appealed and vacated. Regardless, employers subject to federal OSHA jurisdiction should be aware of the possibility that the agency will use its bully pulpit to directly accuse them of neglect of employee safety.