Safety Matters

By Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

When it comes to safety in the workplace, there are some obvious hazards that anyone should be able to identify and correct. One of them is access to exits. However, according to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, the folks at Dollar Tree have not gotten that message. That agency has issued a proposed $503,200 fine for alleged safety problems in a single store. Most the violations involved storing merchandise in stock rooms where aisles and exit ways were reportedly blocked or too narrow and boxes were haphazardly stacked. Furthermore, there were repeat violations, which increased the amount of the proposed fine. In a written statement, Anne Soiza, assistant director for occupational safety at the Washington Department of Labor and Industries stated: “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.”

This is an issue that can and should be addressed by a comprehensive safety program that creates and supports a culture of safety. That program and the attendant training should empower employees to take action when they see obvious safety hazards such as blocked exits. In the absence of that culture, you can expect employees to take their safety complaints to a state or federal safety agency, which will conduct an inspection and issue a monetary fine.

The Bottom Line: A good safety program is priceless. Not only does a good safety program prevent workplace injuries and accidents and helps to control insurance and workers’ compensation costs, but it also shows employees that the employer takes their personal safety seriously, which enhances employee morale and retention.

Do you need a safety program or safety audit? Contact Larry Stine for more information.

Kathleen Jennings, Principal is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

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