Dollar Tree Racked Up $866K In Fines Over Last 12 Months For Workplace-Safety Violations

Discount retailer Dollar Tree has earned itself the not so great distinction of raking in perhaps more workplace-safety violations in one year than any other business has managed to accumulate: In the last 12 months, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 48 violations to Dollar Tree, charging it $866,000 in fines.

Was there an epic case of exploding boxes of soda or something? The answer is probably a lot simpler and more dangerous in an everyday way, say regulators, saying that problems like precariously balanced boxes, tanks of gas placed willy nilly and blocked electrical outlets are to blame for the rash of violations, reports the Wall Street Journal.

One store in Texas just received $262,500 in fines on Wednesday, OSHA said, it’s fourth fine of more than $100,000 since May.

This run of violations and fines could be the highest ever doled out to a retail chain, says OSHA head David Michaels.

“We see a problem in stores across the country,” he said. “Each of these stores has some serious hazards.”

In comparison — though Dollar General and Family Dollar are both larger chains, each only run up fines of less than $50,000 over the same period.

Dollar Tree says in response to the news that it’s “committed to maintaining a safe workplace environment for each of our associates. We are currently in the process of contesting recent OSHA citations.”

The pressure to move as much cheap merchandise as possible and make a profit often leads to stores cutting down on staff, with sometimes only two employees working in a store at once. That’s a lot of ground to cover, especially when stores are between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet.

So what happens when a worker is unloading one of the thousands of boxes delivered to the stores each week when a customer needs help? She might leave that pile to assist, abandoning boxes in the aisle that could block emergency exits, trip customers with clutter or otherwise prove unsafe.

At one store, OSHA found boxes blocking an exit route, with containers piled precariously in stacks reaching 12 to 15 feet. That store also had unsecured helium cylinders that could’ve fallen on employees or customers and electrical panels blocked with merchandise, which could’ve caused burn and electrical shock injuries, OSHA said.

OSHA inspections were prompted mostly by complaints from employees and managers, bringing in inspectors almost 80 times in the past five years.

Employees injured at Dollar Tree stores recall cartons stacked carelessly with empty boxes lying around, ready to cause even more damage. Others said managers were blasé about the whole workplace safety thing.

“Things are tumbling on you because the space in the storage room is so small,” said one 57-year old former Dollar Tree worker who quite after a box of cans fell on her head. “We were always complaining to the manager, but she doesn’t do anything.”

Dollar Tree Racks Up Safety Violations [Wall Street Journal]