Those of us who deal with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have watched with interest the agency’s ongoing enforcement efforts against the Dollar General retail chain. Since 2017, OSHA has assessed over $15 million in fines against Dollar General, involving 180 inspections, much of which relates to claims that inventory was blocking exits and electrical panels, creating fire hazards. On April 7, OSHA announced yet another willful, serious citation involving alleged fire hazards at a New Jersey store. OSHA proposed $245,544 in penalties.
Dollar General operates approximately 18,000 stores in the U.S. and employs over 150,000 workers. Given the scope of this operation, assuring uniform compliance with inventory storage procedures must be a daunting task. If a delivery results in even a temporary blocking of fire escape routes, an OSHA inspection can result in yet another repeat or willful citation.
The Dollar General saga illustrates the importance of companies staying out of OSHA’s severe violator enforcement program. When combined with recent increases in monetary penalties, the resources required to attempt uniform and constant compliance with OSHA safety standards require enormous investments in time and budgets. Once a company suspects health and safety compliance issues, early intervention can help avoid long-term battles with OSHA over its enforcement and citation practices.