The Importance of Ensuring Employee Safety

Dollar TreeBusinesses have an obligation to provide a safe working environment for their workforce. Employers need to ensure that if there are dangerous conditions at work, those risks are minimized. Because there may be a tendency for organizations to not comply with safety standards without pressure, the United States Department of Labor has the ability to fine companies that possess dangerous conditions. A recent article from the Boston Globe describes a store that the Department of Labor has cited for bad labor practices.

A Chain Breaks the Law

Dollar Tree Inc. is an organization based in Chesapeake, Virginia. It has more than 5,000 locations in North America, including 92 in Massachusetts. The Department of Labor fined the company $177,800 because of dangerous conditions in the storeroom of its Roslindale, Massachusetts location and also because the company did nothing to repair the original problem. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) originally discovered problems in December; there were boxes that blocked the exits and merchandise stacked unstably that would expose workers to crushing injuries if the stacks collapsed. The OSHA’s area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts stated that the store has continually refused to address safety matters. The director also stated that when the inspector mentioned the problems during an initial visit, those problems were still present during following visits. She concluded that it was an “unacceptable disregard for employee health and safety.” The company was fined $70,000 for obstructed exit routes, $60,500 for unstable merchandise stacks, $44,000 for blocking the access to an electrical panel, and $3,000 for maintaining trash piles in the storeroom. The Roslindale location has been cited more than 50 times in the last five years for similar violations.

The Costs of Breaking the Law

The practice of this company portrays a poor picture of businesses. While the majority of businesses understand the laws and their obligations and want to protect their employees, a person should not assume that organizations will put the safety and health of their employees ahead of profits. Your workplace must have workers’ compensation insurance. Not having such insurance is a violation of Massachusetts law. If a company does not have insurance, under MGL c. 152, § 25C., that company may face civil fines and/or criminal penalties that may include imprisonment up to one year. Additionally, companies may be immediately barred from bidding or participating in municipal or state-funded projected for a period of three years. This penalty does not merely apply to companies that do not have workers’ compensation insurance, but also to businesses that knowingly misclassify their employees in order to receive lower premium rates.

If you have a problem regarding workers’ compensation, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney. While it is true that the state of Massachusetts provides protections for employees, there may also be civil damages that are possible in addition to the benefits granted under workers’ compensation if the behavior was truly negligent.

If you have questions or concerns regarding workers’ compensation, contact the Sheehan Law Firm. We can advise you on your options, and help you secure the compensation that you deserve.