The name of the program should feel like a version of Death Row for a retailer: the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The Labor Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been operating it for years, but just recently the program has extended out to include any type of company that willfully or repeatedly violated safety standards.
Dollar General stands on this Death Row, but unfortunately fines delivered by OSHA are not killer. Dollar General’s profits have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic as stores continue to open. OSHA, however, can only charge a company up to $15,600 a day for a maximum of 30 days while it fails to deal with unsafe conditions. Over 270 Dollar General stores have been scoped over the last six years, amounting to 111 safety violations for a fine total of $15.5 million.
After resisting any meeting with OSHA, Dollar General has now come to the table for settlement discussions that include ways to improve working conditions.
The biggest problem at Dollar Generals appears to center around the lack of staffing. When deliveries come in, there are simply not enough workers to take care of the product, which ends up being stacked in the aisles. OSHA also has found clutter blocking emergency exits and inventory stacked too high on the show floor. Dollar General also is one of the lowest in terms of staff compensation and has done little to prevent crime at the stores.
Now that Dollar General is part of the Severe Violator Enforcement Program OSHA can inspect stores at random, and recently President Biden strengthened OSHA with a 20% increase in staff.
Earlier this month the Dollar Tree was slapped with a substantial fine by the U.S. government after a Texas location was found to be lax in workplace safety regulations.
OSHA issued citations to the company for three repeat violations and proposed $254,478 in penalties.
In September 2022, OSHA opened an inspection at a store in Mount Pleasant, Texas, and found blocked exit routes that exposed employees to fire hazards. They also discovered boxes stacked at unstable heights with the potential to seriously injure workers.
“Soon after federal workplace safety inspectors arrived at a Dollar Tree store in Mount Pleasant, Texas, they found the national discount retailer again shortchanging employee safety — continuing a pattern of disregard dating back to 2017 — by allowing storeroom merchandise to block exits and walkways and stacking boxes high enough to fall on workers,” the U.S. Department of Labor said in a recent release.
Dollar General also has been accused of blowing off any direction from OSHA.