Personal Injury

Grocery chain incurs steep fines for multiple workplace hazards

When an employee of a grocery store in Rindge, New Hampshire, fell 11 feet to a concrete floor from a storage platform, sustaining broken bones and head trauma, instead of calling for help, store managers lifted the injured worker off the floor, put him in a wheel chair, and pushed him to the store’s receiving dock to wait for a relative to take him to the hospital. That unusually harsh disregard of federal safety standards prompted an investigation of DeMoulas Supermarkets Inc. (doing business as Market Basket) by a regional office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), whereupon inspectors found 30 alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of the safety code.

The Massachusetts-based grocery chain, which operates stores in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, faces nearly $600,000 in fines for the violations, the most serious of which involved recurring fall and laceration hazards that jeopardized the health and safety of its workers. According to OSHA, more than $100,000 of the proposed penalties were for a series of violations the agency deemed serious, including the company’s failure to contact emergency services and moving the worker after he fell from the inadequately guarded storage mezzanine last April.

“Employers with multiple locations have a responsibility to ensure safe and healthful working conditions at all of their workplaces,” said OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels. “This employer has been cited for similar conditions at numerous other stores. Although those individual hazards were abated, this employer has not taken effective steps to correct these hazards across the board.”

Some of the other problems OSHA found at various stores included exposing workers to falls from heights greater than 11 feet by requiring them to work atop coolers, freezers, and storage lofts 11 feet high or taller without proper guardrails – a violation for which OSHA inspectors cited the company previously after finding it in a number of the stores. OSHA also cited the company previously for exposing produce, deli, and bakery workers to serious laceration hazards. The company’s systemic failure to correct these “willful” violations resulted in $261,000 in proposed penalties.

OSHA also cited DeMoulas Supermarkets for seven repeat violations with $225,500 in fines for previously cited hazardous conditions in multiple locations. According to OSHA, those citations encompassed amputation hazards, inadequate training for operators of heavy machinery, and inadequate training about bloodborne pathogens “for an employee required to clean equipment and work areas contaminated with human blood.”

Other citations for penalties totaling $102,700 included blocked exit routes; lack of hand and eye protection; lack of an emergency eye wash for employees working with battery acid; lack of chemical hazards communication training for workers; electrical hazards, machine guarding hazards; and lack of machine guarding, among others.

Sources:

OSHA inspection 63192

OSHA inspection 29247

www.OSHA.gov