Dollar General is facing a new round of penalties from the U.S. Department of Labor, with the agency proposing $3.4 million in fines for workplace safety violations found at nine stores in several states.
The federal agency on Tuesday said its inspectors discovered blocked aisles, emergency exits, fire extinguishers and electrical panels at nine Dollar General stores in Maine, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin late last year. Inspectors also found boxes stacked unsafely and said the conditions expose workers to fires, electrical hazards and other issues that violate federal safety regulations, according to a press release.
Since 2017, the labor department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office has proposed more than $21 million in fines against Dollar General.
Last week, two activist investors called on both Dollar General and discount competitor Dollar Tree to improve worker safety and pay. The so-called Dollar General Proposal 7, led by one of the activist groups, seeks an independent worker safety and well-being audit. It is up for a vote next Wednesday at the retailer’s annual shareholder meeting. Dollar General’s board unanimously recommends that shareholders vote against the proposal, saying the retailer has a robust safety program that includes daily safety audits, an overall culture of safety and a broad range of health benefits.
“We strive to create an environment where our employees feel respected, safe, empowered and motivated,” Dollar General said in a letter to shareholders.
In the latest OSHA investigation, the agency found rolling containers and boxes obstructing an emergency exit at a Dollar General store in Enfield, Maine; at least six workers exposed to toxic vapors after chemical containers ruptured in Minot, North Dakota; stacked merchandise blocking exit routes, fire extinguishers and electrical panels at a store in Kewaunee, Wisconsin; and other issues.
“Dollar General continues to expose its employees to unsafe conditions at its stores across the nation,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health at OSHA, said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s largest retailers, the company must focus its attention on resolving these issues and making corporate-wide changes to protect the safety and well-being of the people they employ.”
OSHA revealed in March that it was in settlement proceedings with Dollar General after it added the discounter to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program for companies that routinely run afoul of worker safety regulations.
Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based Dollar General operates more than 19,000 stores and employs more than 150,000 workers. The retailer has about two weeks to respond to this new round of citations, OSHA said.