Dollar General is facing more than $1 million in potential penalties for workspace safety violations at four stores in Florida and Georgia that were uncovered by investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The company has been fined $15 million since 2017 for safety hazards, according to a strongly worded OSHA statement outlining the new violations.
“While it portrays its store chain as ‘America’s neighborhood general store,’ Dollar General, one of the nation’s largest discount retailers, continues to expose workers to unsafe conditions,” reads the OSHA statement, which also calls out the fact that the new violations are “many of the same violations Dollar General has refused to correct at its stores throughout the nation.”
In Ocala, Fla., federal workplace inspectors opened inspections at stores on 58th Avenue and Marion Oaks Manor in late August and September 2022. They found merchandise obstructing exit routes, exposing workers to fire and entrapment hazards, as well as merchandise blocking fire extinguishers and an automatic sliding door that was disabled and locked. The agency cited the company for five repeat violations and proposed $710,974 in penalties for these inspections.
OSHA’s investigation in Columbus, Ga. found Dollar General’s Victory Drive location also exposed workers to fire and entrapment hazards by locking an emergency exit door. The location also had boxes and merchandise stored in an unsafe manner, exposing workers to struck-by hazards. OSHA issued citations for two repeat violations with $221,001 in proposed penalties.
At the retailer’s 13th Avenue location in Columbus, OSHA also found boxes of merchandise, shopping carts and other items blocking walkways, exposing employees to trip hazards, for which the company was cited with one repeat violation and $98,219 in proposed penalties.
“As a growing retailer serving thousands of communities across the country, Dollar General is committed to providing a safe work environment for its associates and shopping experience for its customers,” said the company in a statement shared with Retail TouchPoints. “We regularly review and refine our safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability. When we learn of situations where we have failed to live up to this commitment, we work to address the issue [in a timely manner] and ensure that the company’s expectations regarding safety are clearly communicated, understood and implemented.”
Dollar General has 15 business days from the receipt of these citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA said that since 2017 it has cited Dollar General in more than 180 inspections nationwide for numerous “willful, repeat and serious workplace safety violations related to unsafe conditions.” In Alabama, Florida and Georgia alone, OSHA has issued citations stemming from 23 Dollar General store inspections from Feb. 1, 2022 through Jan 31, 2023, with a total of nearly $7.5 million in penalties outstanding.
“Dollar General is well aware of federal requirements, but they continue to ignore their legal responsibilities to protect their employees at stores throughout the nation,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA Regional Administrator in Atlanta in a statement.
Based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., Dollar General Corp. operates approximately 19,000 stores and 28 distribution centers in 47 states and employs more than 173,000 workers. In 2022, Dollar General added more than 10,000 net-new jobs and that number will only grow as it continues its rapid expansion, which includes plans for 1,050 new store openings and 120 store relocations in fiscal 2023.
The company recorded strong sales in fiscal 2022, which ended Feb. 3, 2023, with net sales increasing 10.6% and same store sales up 4.3%. On the earnings call, CEO Jeffrey Owen said the company would invest nearly $100 million to increase labor hours for its store employees in 2023 to enable “consistent store standards while further enhancing the associate and customer experience.”