Seven dollar-store retailers in Maine have been fined tens of thousands of dollars for federal safety violations in the past six years, part of a national crackdown against the franchises, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Maine stores operating under the names Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree have been fined since 2017. Three of the cases are from this year.
Many of the penalties were for fire- and safety-related hazards including blocked exits, dangerous shelving and outdated fire extinguishers.
For example, on March 10 a Family Dollar on Route 1 in Bucksport was fined $49,104 for two repeat violations, OSHA records show.
The Dollar Tree on Western Avenue in Augusta amassed $338,759 in fines last June 17 for six “serious” violations, four categorized as repeat violations.
Dollar General on Sokokis Avenue in Limington was fined $98,208 on Jan. 17, 2022, for two repeat offenses, OSHA records show.
An OSHA inspection at another Dollar General on Route 1 in Sullivan led to $159,528 in fines on Jan. 25, 2022, for three violations. One was categorized as serious, one a repeat violation and another was deemed willful for a blocked exit route in the back storage room.
In addition, the businesses were often cited for unsafe conditions involving chemicals, including exposure and improper employee training. The Augusta Dollar Tree was cited for not providing “suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body for employees using corrosive chemicals” used in cleaning, for example.
All of these cases were closed and settled informally. The settlements usually resulted in a lower amount than the initial fines.
Kristin Tetreault, a spokeswoman for Dollar Tree Inc, which owns Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, told The Maine Monitor in an email that “a safe workplace for our associates is our highest priority.”
“We are focused on maintaining a safe environment that complies with all health and safety regulations at our facilities,” she wrote. “To that end, we continually enhance our safety programs and protocols.”
She did not comment on specific OSHA violations.
A Dollar General spokesperson said the violations at its Maine stores have been resolved.
“We regularly review and refine our safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability,” Dollar General said in a statement. “When we learn of situations where we have failed to live up to this commitment, we work to timely address the issue and ensure that the company’s expectations regarding safety are clearly communicated, understood and implemented.”
Mid-sized dollar stores are found throughout Maine, and often serve as the only grocery and general interest retailers in rural areas. According to their websites, there are an estimated 66 Dollar General stores in the state, 56 Family Dollar Stores and 33 Dollar Trees.
There are thousands of other stores nationally, and they have been under intense scrutiny by OSHA and labor advocates. A wage tracker from the Economic Policy Institute said 92% of Dollar General workers make less than $15 an hour.
According to OSHA, Dollar General and its affiliate, Dolgencorp, are based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, and operate some 19,000 stores and 28 distribution centers in 47 states. The companies employ more than 173,000 workers, OSHA says.
In March, OSHA said it found violations at Dollar General stores in Ocala, Florida, and Columbia, Georgia. The agency said it found “many of the same violations Dollar General has refused to correct at its stores throughout the nation.’’
“Since 2017, OSHA has issued more than $15 million in fines, and cited Dollar General Corp. and Dolgencorp in more than 180 inspections nationwide for numerous willful, repeat and serious workplace safety violations related to unsafe conditions,” OSHA said.
The New York Times reported last week that since 2017, Dollar Tree has been cited for 90 violations and fined $14 million, and Family Dollar has been cited 54 times and fined $5 million. Dollar General has been placed in OSHA’s “severe violator” program, which allows OSHA to inspect a store even if it has not received a complaint, the Times said.
Citations issued for the violations at the Maine-based stores referenced similar violations in other states.
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