Ohio OSHA Law Blog

by Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis

OSHA impacts retailers too.

Most people think of OSHA as industrial regulations. And, much of what OSHA does impacts industry. But, that’s only part of the story. Case in point? Last week, OSHA announced an $825,000 settlement with Dollar Tree Stores Inc.

The corporate-wide settlement impacted allegations of hazards relating to blocked emergency exits, obstructed access to exit routes and electrical equipment, and improper material storage.

In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement:

  • Requires Dollar Tree to develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program consistent with OSHA’s Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines.
  • Allows a third-party monitor to audit 50 company stores during the two-year agreement, with any recommended remediation to be implemented within 21 days.
  • Encourages employees to use a toll-free number to anonymously report safety and health issues.
  • Mandates cooperation with OSHA to monitor implementation of the agreement, including periodic progress reports and monitoring inspections to ensure terms are met.

In addition to these broad-based programs and compliance measures, the agreement also requires Dollar Tree to address specific safety concerns at its retail stores, including:

  • Prohibiting the stacking or storing of materials or equipment in a way that would block or obstruct access to emergency exits and electrical equipment
  • Implementing procedures in which managers at different levels can request storage containers to store items in a way that allows free access to emergency exits and electrical equipment
  • Requiring routes to emergency exits and electrical equipment be at least 28 inches wide
  • Reviewing delivery, unloading, and personnel systems to ensure placement of received merchandise and materials in designated storage or sales areas does not obstruct access to exits and electrical equipment, or create storage hazards

This settlement comes on the heels of OSHA’s draft updated voluntary Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, published in November and open for comment through February 15, 2016. These guidelines, which are advisory in nature, envision voluntary collaboration between an employer and its employees to establish health and safety management plans, particularly in small to mid-sized businesses and in multi-employer situations.

OSHA’s draft guidelines [pdf] are divided into seven, color-coded “core elements”:

  1. Management Leadership
  2. Worker Participation
  3. Hazard Identification and Assessment
  4. Hazard Prevention and Control
  5. Education and Training
  6. Program Evaluation and Improvement
  7. Coordination and Communication on Multi-employer Worksites

Expect to see a big push in 2016 for these voluntary comprehensive safety and health programs, as OSHA looks for more buy-in from employers for voluntary safety compliance, and will use the hammer of the settlement of citations to obtain this “voluntary” compliance.

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