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Dollar General in settlement talks over safety violations

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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 is in settlement talks with federal regulators after the discount retailer was labeled a “severe violator” of workplace safety rules, according to a spokesperson for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The spokesperson said the “mandatory settlement proceedings” before the agency’s review commission would occur “pursuant to Commission rules.” OSHA is part of the Department of Labor.

Dollar General did not comment directly on the settlement talks. Until recently, the discount retailer was unwilling to engage with OSHA about the violations, according to federal officials who spoke to The New York Times under the condition of anonymity. 

A Dollar General spokesperson told CNBC “we 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 address the issue and ensure the company’s expectations regarding safety are clearly communicated, understood and implemented,” the spokesperson added. 

Dollar General has been accused of exposing workers to fire hazards and other safety concerns, such as merchandise stacked at unsafe heights, leading to “chronic failures to meet federal safety requirements,” according to OSHA.

Since 2017, OSHA inspected over 270 Dollar General stores, finding more than 100 workplace safety violations. OSHA also issued Dollar General over $15 million in fines. The company operates more locations in the U.S. than Target and Walmart.

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. That program, dubbed the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, was traditionally aimed at companies with notably unsafe working conditions, like manufacturers or construction firms. 

Under the program, OSHA officials can inspect a store at random, without a direct complaint about working conditions. 

The Tennessee-based company rapidly expanded throughout the pandemic, opening thousands of new locations. Amid this growth and profitability, the company also faced criticism from other workers’ rights advocates, making it a logical target for the Biden administration

“Dollar General’s growing record of disregard for safety measures makes it abundantly clear that the company puts profit before people,” said OSHA regional administrator Kurt Petermeyer in a January news release. “These violations are preventable, and failing to prevent them shows a blatant disregard for the workers on whom they depend to keep their stores operating.” 

Throughout the course of their inspections, OSHA officials have found everything from blocked fire exits to unstable stacked merchandise that could fall on workers. 

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