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Walmart

Walmart ‘Failed to Protect Employees from Serious Hazards,’ OSHA Says

WalmartWalmart has violated a corporate-wide safety agreement it signed with the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2013, OSHA says.

A Walmart spokesperson, however, told Environmental Leader that the retailer is “confused” by the allegations and took steps two years ago to improve its environment, health and safety practices following the agreement with OSHA.

In its 2013 agreement with OSHA, Walmart allowed the agency to conduct health-monitoring inspections to protect company employees from workplace hazards.

After an inspection of a Walmart Supercenter in Pensacola, Florida, OSHA officials on March 15 cited the retailer for five health and safety violations and proposed penalties totaling $118,800. To be clear: this fine is a slap on the hand for Walmart, a global giant whose enterprise value, according to Yahoo Finance, is $257.88 billion. But for a company that is always under attack for its benefits and pay packages, this bad publicity doesn’t help.

OSHA says it cited Walmart for not providing Hepatitis B vaccinations to workers that were designated to clean up blood spills or ensuring workers understood the symptoms and control measures for Hepatitis B. The agency also cited Walmart for failing to maintain unobstructed access to the disconnect box and panel for the baler and trash compactor and says it cited the company for the same violation in 2013 at a New York location.

OSHA also issued “serious citations” related to Walmart’s failure to: annually train workers designated to clean up blood spills on the dangers of blood-borne pathogens; provide employees with sufficient working space to avoid contact with live electrical wires; and protect them from exposure to shock and burn hazards.

“The blood-borne pathogen and safe access violations were previously cited and also covered in the settlement agreement, yet employees are still being exposed to these hazards,” said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA’s area director. “It is very frustrating to see that these hazards continue to exist and is a clear indication management is not actively involved in the safety and health program.”

Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove says the company does have a rigorous health and safety program in place.

“We have blood borne pathogen safety processes in place at this store and in fact at all of our facilities across the country,” Hargrove says. “We are a little confused by this as we took steps two years ago to strengthen our practices on this issue and informed OSHA of those steps. OSHA never raised concern over our corrective actions. We will respond to the citations as appropriate but want our customers and associates to know that their safety has been and always will be critical to us.”

The OSHA citations follow two environmental management violations in recent years. In 2015, Walmart agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty for violating an EPA stormwater discharge permit at a Washington, DC construction site.

And in a much larger settlement, in 2013 Walmart agreed to pay about $82 million after pleading guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous waste at its retail stores across the US.

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