NEW YORK - U.S. regulators on Wednesday announced a settlement with the company that runs Dollar Tree and Family Dollar aimed at improving worker safety at thousands of the bargain stores across the country.
Labor Department officials cited hazards at the stores including blocked exits, unsafe storage of materials, and improper access to fire extinguishers and electrical panels.
Under the agreement, the chains operated by Dollar Tree Inc. are required to find the "root causes" of violations that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has repeatedly cited at multiple stores and fix them within two years, the department said.
Assistant Labor Secretary Doug Parker noted that OSHA has issued 403 violations at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores since 2017, resulting in more than $13.1 million in fines to date. The company "made some significant improvement" in worker safety following a 2015 settlement that expired in 2018 but continued violations show more work needs to be done, Parker said.
"These are entirely preventable violations and hazards. And it’s the employer’s ... responsibility, to keep these workers safe," Parker told reporters. "These improvements will not happen overnight, but this agreement will create a pathway for significant investment by the company to put in place controls that we believe will make workers safer."
The agreement, which was entered into last week, covers all Family Dollar and Dollar Tree stores in OSHA’s federal jurisdiction — totaling 10,000 locations nationwide, according to Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. It also calls for the company to maintain a 24-hour hotline for safety complaints and anti-retaliation protections for workers, Nanda added.
Dollar Tree and Family Dollar also face hefty fines for future violations. If hazards are not adequately corrected within 48 hours of an OSHA notification, the company can face $100,000 fine per day of violation, up to $500,000 for each store, as well as further inspection and enforcement from OSHA.
Beyond these fines, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar is paying $1.4 million in penalties to settle existing contested and open inspections of similar alleged violations, the Labor Department said Wednesday.
"We are implementing substantial safety policies, procedures, and training, all intended to safeguard the wellbeing of our associates," Mike Creedon, chief operating officer of Dollar Tree, said in a Wednesday statement. "We appreciate the opportunity to engage with OSHA on our safety initiatives as we move forward, seeking to establish our position as a leading retailer in workplace safety."
Dollar Tree Inc., based in Chesapeake, Virginia, acquired Family Dollar in 2015 for almost $9 billion. The company operates more than 16,000 Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores in 48 states and Canada, employing more than 193,000 people, according to the Labor Department.