OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels

ALJ Upholds Penalty for Wal-Mart Trampling Case

OSHA Chief Dr. David Michaels said the ruling "supports OSHA's position that, even in the absence of a specific rule or standard, employers are still legally responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death."

OSHA announced that Chief Administrative Law Judge Covette Rooney of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on March 25 upheld its serious citation and $7,000 penalty issued to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management after worker at a store in New York State was trampled to death in November 2008.

"This is a win for both workers and consumers," OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels said in the agency's news release. "It's only fitting that today, the 100th anniversary of the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City where 146 workers lost their lives, that a judge affirmed OSHA's right to protect the safety and health of workers from clearly recognized hazards. Today's ruling supports OSHA's position that, even in the absence of a specific rule or standard, employers are still legally responsible for providing a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death. If not properly managed by retailers, a large crowd poses a significant threat to the lives of workers and customers."

The death occurred Nov. 28, 2008, at a store in Valley Stream, N.Y., as shoppers streamed inside for a "Blitz Friday" holiday sales event. OSHA said its inspection found the store's workers were at risk of being crushed by the crowd because store management failed to implement reasonable and effective crowd management practices. The $7,000 penalty was the maximum allowed by law for the serious citation -- a classification that means death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"During the course of OSHA's investigation, the company implemented crowd control measures storewide, and the National Retail Federation also promoted those practices to its members," said Michaels. "We praise that action and urge all retailers to implement crowd management practices ahead of future sales events likely to draw large crowds."

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has 20 days from the date Rooney's decision is docketed with OSHRC during which it can appeal to the full commission.

The inspection was conducted by the Long Island Area Office, and the case was litigated for OSHA by Jeffrey Rogoff, Darren Cohen, Kathryn L. Stewart, Sudwiti Chanda and Diane C. Sherman of the Labor Department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in New York.

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