Ignoring worker safety not cheap for Dollar Tree
August 02, 2023
TUMWATER — Blocked emergency exit routes, improper stacking of boxes, and debris scattered on the floor are among the numerous safety hazards that have the Dollar Tree company facing $132,000 in state fines.
The current citation and fine are in connection with violations at the Tacoma Central Plaza store at 3208 South 23rd Street. A Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) inspection resulted in three repeat willful violations—issued when a business repeatedly puts their employees at risk when they knew or should have known relevant safety requirements. These are the same hazards L&I cited Dollar Tree for just three months ago.
Photos taken by inspectors show boxes in top heavy stacks more than six feet high, creating a danger of collapse. Inspectors also found debris on the floor not only in the storeroom, but also in the aisles where customers walk.
“We’re seeing the same safety violations at Dollar Tree stores over and over again,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “This is a national problem as well. Even after multiple large fines, it appears Dollar Tree has not gotten the message that they need to take sustained, comprehensive steps to keep their workers safe.”
Long history of safety issues
L&I has inspected Washington Dollar Tree stores more than 30 times in the past four years, resulting in more than a million dollars in fines.
The Virginia-based company has dozens of stores throughout Washington. Dollar Tree’s corporate office controls inventory for local stores, and shipments arrive frequently. L&I inspectors have found that too much inventory and not enough storage space at Dollar Tree stores often leads to high stacks of boxes and other safety issues.
Improperly stored merchandise is more likely to fall, resulting in serious injuries or death if the boxes strike employees. Inspectors also frequently see boxes stored in a way that blocks exits, which can be dangerous during an emergency. And lifting heavy boxes onto over-the-head stacks is likely to cause strains and sprains or serious back injuries.
The violations are not unique to Washington. Dollar Tree locations around the country have been cited for improper stacking of merchandise boxes, mostly in their storerooms, and for blocking exits or impeding pathways.
Dollar Tree considered a “Severe Violator”
The company is part of L&I’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which means its stores are subject to inspections at any time, among other things.
Dollar Tree has appealed this citation.
Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers' compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.