Supermarket Chain Faces Heavy Fines

Thirty violations and $589,200 in proposed fines against DeMoulas Supermarkets Inc. stem mainly from "recurring fall and laceration hazards" and from "improperly responding to a worker's serious injury," according to OSHA.

OSHA has fined Tewksbury, Mass.-based DeMoulas Supermarkets Inc., dba Market Basket, $589,200 for hazards at stores it operates in New Hampshire, alleging 30 willful, repeat, and serious violations, the agency announced Oct. 18.

OSHA's announcement said the proposed fines are "chiefly for recurring fall and laceration hazards and also for improperly responding to a worker's serious injury."

The Concord Monitor reported that DeMoulas Supermarkets issued a statement saying it is "working in good faith" with OSHA "to address concerns raised during recent visits by OSHA inspectors" and is "confident that common ground can be reached while achieving the mutual goal of promoting a healthy and safe work environment for Market Basket employees." Company officials are scheduled to meet with OSHA personnel Oct. 26 to discuss the case, OSHA Area Director Rose Ohar told the newspaper.

"Employers with multiple locations have a responsibility to ensure safe and healthful working conditions at all of their workplaces," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "This employer has been cited for similar conditions at numerous other stores. Although those individual hazards were abated, this employer has not taken effective steps to correct these hazards across the board."

The allegedly improper response involved an employee who fell 11 feet to a concrete floor, suffering broken bones and head trauma, on April 17 at the Market Basket store in Rindge, N.H. Saying the worker fell from "an inadequately guarded storage mezzanine," the agency added, "Instead of calling for emergency help, store management lifted the injured worker from the floor, put him in a wheelchair and pushed him to the store's receiving dock to wait for a relative to take him to the hospital.

OSHA said its personnal began an inspection of the company's Concord store May 16 after an OSHA supervisor saw the same type of fall hazard. Employees at two stores were exposed to falls of more than 11 feet while working on top of produce coolers, freezers, and storage lofts "that lacked adequate guardrails," according to OSHA, which said it has previously had cited DeMoulas for the same hazard at the Concord store and at stores in Fitchburg, Lawrence, and Tewksbury, Mass.

The company also was cited for exposing workers in the produce, deli, and bakery departments of the Rindge and Concord stores to laceration hazards from knives. Four of the alleged violations were classified by OSHA as willful, seven as repeat, and 19 as serious.

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