Dollar General operates 28 distribution centers and over 19,000 retail stores in Colorado and around the country that employ more than 150,000 people, but according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the company does not take workplace safety regulations very seriously. The retailer had a history of violations, but after an inspection of a West Lafayette Dollar General location, the federal safety agency labeled the discount retailer a “severe violator.” As a result, OSHA placed Dollar General in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) in January 2023, the first since laws expanded the program in 2022.
An OSHA official said that OSHA will scrutinize Dollar General more rigorously due to the SVEP. With over 100 safety violations found since 2017, the agency concluded that there is a clear pattern of disregard for employee safety. In several retail locations, inspectors found emergency exits and electrical panels blocked by boxes of merchandise. OSHA also cited the company for stacking merchandise at unsafe heights. These violations expose workers and shoppers to fire hazards and increase the risk of struck-by injuries, which could lead to workers’ compensation claims and other problems.
Over the years since OSHA discovered the violations in 2017, the agency has fined Dollar General multiple times, totaling over $15 million. As a result of the SVEP, Dollar General must engage in what OSHA describes as “mandatory settlement proceedings.” Though Dollar General states that “[they] regularly review and refine [their] safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability,” the settlement talks had not concluded by the end of March 2023.
Under the SVEP’s expansion, OSHA reserves the right to inspect any Dollar General location for customer and worker safety violations, without any direct complaints that initiate proceedings. Specifically, Dollar General must allow OSHA staff to perform a follow-up inspection within one year of the company being placed into the program.
An OSHA official said that Dollar General places profits over safety, and this does not seem to be hyperbole. Dollar General can address the kind of workplace hazards OSHA inspectors discovered by moving boxes of merchandise and stacking shelves more carefully.