Bargain retailer Dollar Tree faces record fines from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for repeated safety violations, according to a press release from the department.
The $503,200 fine the retailer faces are among the largest the department has ever issued, the release states. L&I allegations against the company include blocked emergency exit routes, unsafe ladder use, and improper stacking of merchandise.
The citation and fine stems from violations at a store in Vancouver, Washington, located at 6700 NE 162 Ave. A recent inspection resulted in several “repeat willful” and other violations for unsafe merchandise storage and handling and obstructed exit routes, the release states.
A voicemail left for Randy Guiler, Dollar Tree’s vice president of investor relations, has not yet been returned.
Another factor in the size of the fine is that L&I found the same safety hazards at the store during multiple visits, according to the release. The violations reportedly continued even after the company was informed by an L&I inspector of the safety hazards during earlier visits and was provided specific instructions for improving employee safety at the store to avoid further violations, the release states.
“Even after multiple large fines, it appears this company has not gotten the message to ensure their safety and health system is working in every Washington store location,” L&I Assistant Director Anne Soiza said in the release. “This fine is one of the largest we’ve issued and we will apply pressure to Dollar Tree until its leadership takes sustained, comprehensive steps to prevent serious hazards.”
L&I has cited and fined two other Dollar Tree locations in just over a year. Since the beginning of 2017, L&I has completed 15 inspections at Dollar Tree stores after receiving complaints and referrals about unsafe working conditions. The company, which operates dozens of stores throughout Washington, has reportedly been fined nearly $593,000 since 2013. A store in Bonney Lake was fined $166,000 for three willful violations, and a Kelso Dollar Tree was fined $140,000 for violations reportedly similar to the ones found at the Vancouver store.
Dollar Tree has been placed in L&I’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Its stores are now subject to inspections at any time. Dollar Tree has reportedly appealed the citation, and it could take several months for the appeals process to be completed, the release states.
Penalty money paid from the citation is placed in the worker’s compensation supplemental pension fund, which helps injured workers and families of people who have died on the job.