$6.5M in Penalties for Dollar General
Dollar General, a popular retailer nationwide, is facing some stiff fines from OSHA for a reoccurring problem. They have an ongoing issue with blocked emergency exits and electrical panels. According to an article on Business Insurance.com and a press release from OSHA, the problem is not localized, but has been seen and cited in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Here are links to the article and the press release if you want to read more.
OSHA is clear about their expectations for exit routes. Among other requirements listed in 29 CFR Part 1910.37(a)(3), it also says that “Exit routes must be free and unobstructed.”The following regulation, 1910.38, requires that you train employees on evacuation procedures that must be followed. There are no exceptions. Employees must be able to evacuate, safely and quickly, when there is a need to get out of the workplace.
The reason for having a clear pathway to and through an emergency exit seems logical. When there is a fire, an active shooter, or any other reason that you cannot stay inside a building, you can’t take the time to move something from the path or from in front of a door. Or if you need to shut off a circuit breaker at a panel because there is an emergency, you need unobstructed access to that panel.
So how does it happen? How does an emergency exit or an electrical panel get blocked?
In our experience, it happens over time. Has this scenario happened at your place of work? A delivery is made, and a pallet of boxes is stacked a little close to the exit door while a decision is made as to where to store the pallet. A few days later, someone needs a place to store a ladder and sets it by the pallet of boxes. Someone else mops up a spill, and then the mop and bucket get placed next to the ladder. Pretty soon, little by little, the exit door is blocked. It did not happen on purpose, or overnight, but it happened.
What’s the remedy? Some companies have made a conscious effort to keep aisles, emergency exits, fire extinguishers, and electrical panels clear by putting striping on the floor to designate where things can go and where they can’t. This is then followed by instructions to all employees as to why the striping is on the floor, what it means, and that it is for their own protection.
September is around the corner, and it is traditionally National Emergency Preparedness Month. We will look at emergencies that can and often do occur, and some ways to prepare to prevent disasters and tragedies. It is more than just preventing an OSHA violation and resulting fines. It is about saving lives.