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Blocked emergency exits and ‘dangerous’ fire hazards: Dollar General again found in violation of federal workplace safety standards

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The exterior of a Dollar General convenience store is seen on March 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Dollar General has again been found in violation of federal workplace safety regulations for “willfully exposing” staff to fire hazards at a Pennsylvania store, the Department of Labor said Friday. 

Investigators found “dangerous safety hazards,” including blocked emergency exit routes and electrical panels, at a Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, store during a November inspection that was sparked by a complaint made to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

The hazards were similar to violations found at other stores operated by the discounter throughout the U.S., and the inspection is one of more than 180 investigations in which OSHA has found Dollar General to be jeopardizing worker safety, the DOL said. 

In response, a Dollar General spokesperson told CNBC they “regularly review and refine our safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability.”

“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,” the spokesperson added. 

The company, which operates roughly 18,000 stores across the country and employs more than 150,000 workers, has been fined $15 million for safety violations since 2017 and “continues to defy federal workplace safety requirements” despite repeated penalties, the agency said. 

“Exposing employees to these hazards can be dangerous, especially in an emergency,” OSHA Area Director Mary Reynolds said in a statement. ”Dollar General Corp. has a substantial history of the same violations and hazards found at stores all around the U.S. They must end their repeated failures to correct these violations before an emergency turns tragic.”

Just last week, OSHA said Dollar General was in settlement talks with federal regulators after the retailer was labeled a “severe violator” of workplace safety rules. Dollar General was the first company to be added to the “severe violators” list last fall after OSHA expanded the reach of one of its longstanding safety enforcement programs.

For the issues at the Pennsylvania store, OSHA issued a citation for one willful violation and one repeat violation with $245,544 in proposed penalties, but the fines are unlikely to have a major impact on the retailer’s balance sheet. 

In fiscal 2022, which ended Feb. 3, Dollar General reported $37.84 billion in sales and a net income of $2.41 billion. 

The company has 15 business days to either pay the fines, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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