Filed complaint against grocery chain marks 2nd time DOL seeks enterprise-wide relief
Posted January 20, 2012
For the second time ever, the Department of Labor has expressly sought enterprise-wide relief from an employer as a result of its investigations at numerous grocery stores in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire area. The request, which took the form of a complaint filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), asks the commission to order the employer to comply with OSHA’s safety standards designed to protect employees from fall and laceration hazards at the employer's more than 60 stores.
This request for enterprise-wide relief is based upon hazards OSHA found during inspections of various stores. Those inspections resulted in citations and proposed OSHA fines totaling $589,200, which the grocery chain has contested to OSHRC.
The department's complaint alleges that employees at multiple stores were exposed or likely to be exposed to fall hazards from unguarded, open-sided work and storage areas, including storage lofts and atop produce coolers and freezers. An employee of the store in one location was seriously injured in April 2011 when he fell 11 feet onto a concrete floor from an inadequately guarded storage mezzanine, and an employee at a another location was seriously injured under similar conditions in 2007.
The company also allegedly failed to protect employees in produce, deli and bakery departments against laceration hazards from knives and cutting instruments by not conducting job hazard analyses that would have identified the need for hand protection, and by not providing such hand protection to workers exposed to the hazards. In 2006, after being cited by OSHA, the company agreed to complete job hazard analyses in all stores but failed to do so. Between 2008 and 2011, employees at two of the stores sustained at least 40 recorded hand lacerations.
The grocery chain has 20 days from receipt of the complaint to file an answer. This complaint filed with the OSHRC marks the second such time that the DOL has expressly sought enterprise-wide relief from an employer. The first time was against the U.S. Postal Service in July 2010 for correction of electrical work safety violations at 350 postal facilities throughout the nation. That matter is pending.
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