Occupational Health & Safety

Wal-Mart Hit with $365,000 Fine for Repeat Hazards

"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 area director in Buffalo.

OSHA has cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for a total of 24 alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its Supercenter in Rochester, N.Y. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer faces a total of $365,500 in proposed fines following inspections initiated 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 area 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."

The Rochester inspections led OSHA to identify fall hazards, obstructed exit routes, an absence of lockout/tagout procedures for energy sources that would allow employees to safely perform maintenance on a compactor, an unguarded grinder, no training for employees using personal protective equipment, a lack of eye and face protection, and a lack of information and training on hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These conditions resulted in citations for 10 repeat violations worth $288,000 in fines.

OSHA cited Wal-Mart for similar hazards between 2008 and 2010 at workplaces in South Mobile, Ala.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Plant City, Fla.; Rincon, Ga.; Jerseyville, Ill.; Festus, Mo.; Queensbury, N.Y.; Fargo, N.D.; and Tulsa, Okla.

In addition, the Rochester inspections revealed workers exposed to confined space hazards due to management's failure to conduct evaluations in locations such as compactors, develop a confined space entry program, provide employees with confined space training, and share confined space information with contractors performing work in the store. Other hazards were a bypassed interlock switch that allowed a compactor to be operated with its door open, additional lockout/tagout deficiencies, an illegible emergency exit sign, and an incomplete bloodborne pathogen program and training for employees whose duties involve exposure to blood or body fluids. These conditions resulted in citations for 14 serious violations with $77,500 in proposed fines.

"One method by which employers can prevent recurring hazards is developing and maintaining an effective illness and injury prevention program in which management and employees work together to proactively identify and prevent hazardous conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

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