Vancouver, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) – The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) recently issued one of its largest fines ever — $503,200 against Dollar Tree for alleged unsafe conditions at one of its stores in Vancouver.
The store is accused of having blocked emergency exit routes, improper stacking of merchandise, unsafe ladder use, as well as numerous safety hazards. A recent inspection triggered by a complaint resulted in several “repeat willful” and as other violations.
L&I spokesperson Frank Ameduri told WorkersCompensation.com that Dollar Tree is now considered a “Severe Violator,” which means that the company has been placed in L&I’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program and is subject to mandatory follow-up inspection at any time, increased company/corporate awareness of Department of Occupational Safety and Health enforcement, corporate-wide agreements where appropriate, enhanced settlement agreements, and court enforcement.
“Every employer in Washington is legally required to create and maintain a safe workplace for their employees,” Ameduri said. “By rule, every workplace must have an effective accident prevention program that assists in identifying and controlling workplace hazards and that provides for employee training and an ongoing safety program that involves employees and management.”
Records obtained by WokersCompensation.com show some of the violations cited, including some that are repeats:
- The employer did not ensure exit routes were large enough, due to objects sticking out.
- The employer did not ensure that exit routes are always free of obstructions.
- The employee did not ensure that the accident prevention program in place was effective in practice.
- The employer did not enforce its own policy that requires that at all times there must be a minimum of 36-inch exit routes to allow quick and efficient exiting from the building during an emergency.
- The employer did not ensure that employees had both hands free to hold the ladder while climbing and descending.
- Employees did not receive training on ladder safety and were exposed to serious hazards associated with improper ladder usage.
Even though workers were prohibited from standing or stepping onto the top cap and top shelf of a self-supported ladder, it was recorded that an employee had done so. Also, workers in the store were climbing on shelving units, putting them at risk of falling.
“Even after multiple large fines, it appears this company has not gotten the message to ensure their safety and health system is working in every Washington store location,” stated Anne Soiza, L&I assistant director, in a press release. “This fine is one of the largest we’ve issued, and we will apply pressure to Dollar Tree until its leadership takes sustained, comprehensive steps to prevent serious hazards.”
In the last year, there have been three significant L&I citations and fines involving Dollar Tree. L&I has completed 15 inspections at several Dollar Tree stores after receiving referrals and complains about unsafe working conditions. The Virginia-based company has dozens of stores throughout the Washington area, and before this recent citation, the company had been fined close to $593,000 since 2013.
A Dollar Tree store in Kelso was fined $140,000 for violations similar to the ones found at the store in Vancouver, and a store in Bonney Lake was fined $166,600 for three willful violations.
Dollar Tree has appealed the latest citation, and it may take up to several months for the appeal process to be completed.