WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Wednesday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has entered into a settlement agreement to improve safety and health conditions at 2,857 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores.
This story first appeared in the August 8, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The settlement resolves two separate federal enforcement cases that began in 2011 at a Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Rochester, N.Y., where inspectors found several Occupational Safety & Health Administration violations and issued citations. Wal-Mart was fined $190,000 for the citations issued at the Rochester store.
The citations included inadequate employee training on handling hazardous chemicals, obstructed exit routes, an absence of proper procedures to allow employees to safely perform maintenance on a compactor and a lack of training for the use of personal protective equipment and eye and face protection.
OSHA inspectors issued similar citations at nine other Wal-Mart stores around the country from 2008 to 2010, according to the agency. Inspectors also cited the Rochester store for confined-space hazards with inadequate entry and exits, and lack of employee training on confined spaces and an inadequate blood-borne pathogen program and training for employees.
Under the settlement, Wal-Mart agreed to institute more comprehensive abatement programs at 2,857 stores in 28 states, an agency spokesman said. Twenty-two states have their own OSHA programs and have the option of negotiating similar settlements with Wal-Mart, he added.
“We have long-standing policies and training requirements in our stores designed to ensure the safety of our associates. When we learned of concerns raised by OSHA at our Rochester, N.Y., store in 2011, we immediately addressed them and reinforced the company’s guidelines,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said. “We will continue providing training to our associates nationwide, including addressing the areas outlined in the settlement.”
As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart is required to enhance safety and health practices and training related to trash compactors, cleaning chemicals and handling of hazardous materials at those stores.
“This settlement will help to keep thousands of exposed Wal-Mart workers safe and healthy on the job,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA. “We hope this sends a strong message that the law requires employers to provide safe working conditions, and OSHA will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that all employers follow the law.”