Salem, OR — Oregon OSHA has fined a Dollar Tree Inc. store in Forest Grove $37,500 for willfully exposing employees to potential serious injury from unsecured merchandise. Boxes stacked more than 7 feet high posed the danger of merchandise collapsing or falling on employees. The unsecured nature of the merchandise created potential tripping hazards.
The division issued the citation for a “willful” violation on June 22 after conducting a follow-up inspection of the discount retailer. The second enforcement visit was prompted by insufficient documentation the employer had sent to Oregon OSHA to show the hazard was abated after the division had cited it as a “serious” violation during a previous inspection. Oregon OSHA also received a confidentially filed complaint indicating the employer had left the stockroom’s unsecured merchandise hazard unaddressed.
The follow-up inspection – which included employee interviews and a review of internal company documents – confirmed the employer had only briefly abated the hazard, letting the dangerous condition continue. As a result, merchandise could not be properly stacked and blocked in the stockroom, or moved to the sales floor, according to the inspection. Employees were put in harm’s way on a daily basis and in plain sight of the employer.
The follow-up inspection also found that an employee, positioned between two aisles of merchandise, tried to correct the hazard the employer had not properly addressed. The merchandise collapsed and trapped the employee around the waist. The employee was able to get free with the help of a co-worker.
The safety requirement Dollar Tree was obligated to follow calls on employers to ensure that material stored in tiers is stacked, blocked, interlocked, or limited in height so it is secure against sliding and collapsing. Since November 2021, Oregon OSHA has cited Dollar Tree multiple times for violating the requirement at different store locations across the state.
The division cited the violation at the Forest Grove location as “willful” because of the employer’s history of repeatedly disregarding the requirement, its own internal documents stating the stockroom is unsafe, and its unwillingness to address a hazard it knew of and could plainly see.
To spur the employer to take unsecure storage hazards more seriously than it has in the past, Oregon OSHA Administrator Renée Stapleton used her discretionary penalty authority to double the fine for the willful violation.
“Ensuring employees are protected from harm by implementing clearly recognized and legally obligated safety measures must remain a priority for any employer,” Stapleton said. “Willfully and knowingly disregarding such safety measures is absolutely inexcusable.”
Employers have 30 calendar days after receiving a citation to file an appeal.
Workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. That includes the right to raise concerns free from retaliation and to file a complaint with Oregon OSHA, which advances safety for all Oregon workers through enforcement, consultation, technical, and public education and training services. The Ombuds Office for Oregon Workers, an independent advocate, offers workers help in understanding their rights within workplace safety and health rules, and their rights within the workers’ compensation system.
Moreover, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) Multicultural Communications Program provides outreach to communities with limited English proficiency. That outreach includes information about on-the-job safety and health. The program includes a toll-free phone number for Spanish-speaking Oregonians: 800-843-8086.