Dollar General contests worker safety citations
Dollar General contests worker safety citations
Employees mention staffing issues upon visits
By Michael Standaert, North Dakota News Cooperative
The parent company of six Dollar General stores in North Dakota facing total penalties of $2.5 million related to work safety violations is contesting those findings, according to U.S. Department of Labor representatives.
Dollar General stores in Casselton, Garrison, Hillsboro, Killdeer, Minot and Tioga were inspected by Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigators in the final three months of 2022 after state fire marshals found hazards at four stores and complaints were received about two others.
The hazards were related to blocked exits, doors and electrical panels, as well as improperly mounted or blocked fire extinguishers, and carts overly stacked with merchandise.
Dollar General stores have become an important fixture in many communities across the state in recent years as the number of grocery stores dwindles.
The company has “contested all the citations at all North Dakota locations,” according to Scott Allen, regional public affairs director for the Department of Labor. He added the cases will now go before the Independent Occupational Review Commission for review.
Dollar General’s headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, did not respond to specific questions or offer a representative to comment, but issued a statement saying it is committed to providing a safe work environment and shopping experience.
“We regularly review and refine our safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability,” the statement reads. “When we learn of situations where we have failed to live up to this commitment, we work to timely address the issue and ensure that the company’s expectations regarding safety are clearly communicated, understood and implemented.”
At the 2745 East Burdick Expressway Dollar General location in Minot, OHSA inspectors allege that six employees were exposed to toxic vapors from a Dec. 30, 2022, incident where chemical containers ruptured and mixed. Potential fines related to the Minot store amount to over $477,000.
The agency said Dollar General failed to provide adequate safety training and equipment for employees to handle the incident.
On May 24, the North Dakota News Cooperative visited the Garrison, Killdeer and Minot locations in an attempt to discuss the potential violations with employees and managers. Workers at the stores were reluctant to comment, but complained about understaffing.
At the Garrison location, which faces over $401,000 in fines, only one employee was on duty at the time of the visit and declined to speak directly about the violations but did say staffing was an issue.
The storeroom of this location was overstocked at the time of the visit, with limited space for an employee to move through carts stacked high with merchandise. Neither the Department of Labor or Dollar General representatives responded to a request to assess the photos taken at the Garrison location by the time this story went to print.
Fines at the Killdeer location could amount to over $549,000 where a manager indicated the store only had three workers, including himself.
Dollar General representatives did not respond to requests to comment about the staffing situation or specific details related to the violations at these stores.
Casselton store fines would potentially be over $401,000, Hillsboro over $401,000 and Tioga store fines over $352,000, if they are upheld.
Other inspections at Dollar General stores in late 2022 included locations in Maine, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Department of Labor has assessed over $21 million in penalties from 240 inspections at Dollar General locations across the country since 2017.
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Img 3767 – Dollar General stores like this one in Killdeer have become important fixtures in local communities as other grocery options dwindle. Photo Michael Standaert.
Img 3765 – Overloaded carts blocking aisles like this one in Garrison are a violation seen in Dollar General stores across the country. Photo Michael Standaert.
Img 3764 – Overstocking in store rooms like this one in Garrison reduces the ability of staff to move through and can potentially lead to injury from falling items, according to the Department of Labor. Photo Michael Standaert.