Labor Department Cites Wal-Mart for Repeat and Serious Safety Hazards

Walmart Wal-Mart rarely seems to get good press when it comes to workplace conditions or relations with its employees, and this past week was no exception. The United States Dept of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for a total of 24 “repeat and serious” violations of workplace safety and health standards at its supercenter store in Rochester, NY. Even more troubling, these violations show a pattern of similarity to recent citations at nine additional Wal-Mart locations across the U.S.

The Arkansas-based retailer faces up to $365,500 in proposed fines after OSHA’s Buffalo Area Office conducted inspections in response to a complaint.

“The sizable fines proposed here reflect not only the seriousness of these conditions but the fact that several of them are substantially similar to hazards identified at nine other Wal-Mart locations in New York and eight other states,” said Arthur Dube, OSHA’s director in Buffalo. “This situation is unacceptable. A corporate employer must take effective and proactive steps to assess, correct and prevent the recurrence of hazards at all of its locations.”

OSHA inspectors who visited the Rochester Wal-Mart found fall hazards; obstructed exits; an absence of lockout procedures for energy sources that would enable workers to safely perform maintenance on a compactor; an unguarded grinder; a failure to train employees on proper uses of protective equipment; a lack of eye and face protection; and insufficient information and training on hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These conditions exposed employees to serious risk of workplace injury, amounting to citations for 10 repeat violations with $288,000 in fines.

A repeat violation is issued when a place of employment has previously been cited for the same violation of a standard, regulation, or rule. In Wal-Mart’s case, OSHA had cited the retail giant for similar hazards between 2008 and 2010 at workplaces in South Mobile, Alabama; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Plant City, Florida; Rincon, Georgia; Jerseyville, Illinois; Queensbury, N.Y; Fargo, North Dakota; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.  L&I Attorneys were disappointed but hardly surprised by the news, as Wal-Mart has long been a source of a numerous injuries and workers compensation claims in Washington State.

The citations against Wal-Mart can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Walmart315502476-315502880-01-27-12.pdf.*

If you of someone you know has suffered a workplace injury and is filing an L&I claim, we encourage you to consult one of Emery Reddy’s Washington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers.

In the course of many L&I claims process, the Labor & Industries administrators may request that you complete an Independent Medical Examination; if you find yourself in this situation, we urge you to consult with an Seattle L&I lawyer immediately.

Emery Reddy