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OSHA cites national retailer for serious safety violations

When you think about dangerous jobs, retail probably doesn’t come immediately to mind. But even retail employees face serious hazards, especially when employers fail to follow federal and state safety regulations or best practices within the industry.

An example of risky retail working conditions is in the news right now. On Dec. 13, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it had assessed $321,000 in penalties for repeat, serious safety violations found in an inspection of an Alabama Dollar General store. According to the news release, the company is a repeat offender, having had $3.3 million in proposed OSHA penalties just in the past five years.

According to Statista Research Department, in Feb. 2021 Illinois was home to 610 Dollar General locations. Of course, there are many, many thousands of retail establishments in our state, putting Illinoisans at risk of injury in a wide variety of retail settings.

To be fair, the company has the right to challenge proposed penalties and we do not know whether they have done so in the current case. But the allegations illustrate common kinds of retail workplace risks.

The actual Citation and Notification of Penalty is available through a link in the above-linked-to news release. The alleged problems:

  • Failure to keep the workplace “clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition,” including in the storage and receiving room and store aisles and including failure to remove fallen ceiling tiles and insulation from the floor, increasing the chances of slipping, tripping or falling and struck-by injury
  • Failure to keep the area around electrical panels in the stock room clear, creating risk of slip-trip accidents, struck-by injuries, fire and electric hazards
  • Failure to use safe stacking practices for boxed merchandise in the storeroom such as stacking boxes too high or in an unstable, insecure arrangement that could cause worker injury from being struck when a stack collapses or a box falls or from tripping over fallen or spilled merchandise.

Slips and trips are retail hazards

As these citations illustrate, slipping, tripping and falling are common retail dangers. According to Loss Prevention Magazine, this category of accident is in the top 10 most common retail injury causes, citing federal data. While it may seem like a minor incident, the seriousness can vary depending on “how far and how fast you fall,” your body position and the hardness and nature of the surface.

When an Illinois retail employee sustains a work-related injury or illness, they should file a workers’ compensation claim and speak to an attorney for advice and assistance. If the injury is severe, meaning causing disability preventing work for at least a year or resulting in death, the victim should also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

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