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Wal-Mart Agrees to Corporatewide Safety Settlement

By Roy Maurer  8/9/2013
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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has entered into a corporatewide settlement agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to improve safety and health conditions in all 2,857 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores under federal jurisdiction.

The settlement resolves two enforcement cases that began in 2011 and includes provisions to enhance safety and health practices and training related to trash compactors, cleaning chemicals and hazard communications.

The agreement applies to the nearly 2,900 stores that are under federal OSHA supervision in 28 states. States that run their own occupational safety and health programs could negotiate similar agreements.

Under the settlement, trash compactors must remain locked while not in use and may not be operated except under the supervision of trained personnel. Wal-Mart has agreed to improve its hazard-communications training and enhance procedures to ensure that employees do not handle undiluted chemicals. Also, the company must make sure there is a protective protocol to follow should the store equipment that dispenses cleaning chemicals malfunction. Wal-Mart must ensure that workers receive training on the new procedures in a language they understand.

In February 2012, OSHA cited Wal-Mart Stores for 24 alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its supercenter store in Rochester, N.Y. Two inspections stemming from a complaint were conducted. Inspectors found violations such as fall hazards, obstructed exit routes, an absence of lockout/tagout procedures for energy sources on a compactor, an unguarded grinder, no training for employees using personal protective equipment, a lack of eye and face protection, and a lack of information and training on hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Based on the violations, the retailer was originally slapped with a $365,000 fine, but under its agreement with OSHA, the fine was reduced to $190,000.

According to the settlement, a summary of the agreement will be posted in each affected store.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

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