As part of a settlement between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Labor, the national retailer will be making some significant safety improvements to 2,857 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores throughout the U.S. These improvements, which specifically relate to the use of trash compactors and the handling of chemicals and other hazards, will be coupled with a fine of $190,000 that the retailer will pay as a penalty for the violations that had been noted in safety inspections conducted at various Wal-Mart locations in 2011 and 2012.
Among some of the violations noted in the safety inspection reports included:
- Numerous fall hazards
- Blocked exit routes, which can be deadly in the event of a fire or any situation that necessitates and emergency exit
- Lack of tagout procedures for energy sources, which could make it dangerous to do repair work on compactors
- Unguarded grinders
- Lack of employee training regarding the proper use of personal protective equipment
- Lack of personal protective equipment, particularly when it came to protective gear for the eyes and face
- Lack of training regarding the proper use of chemicals and other hazardous substances.
In response to these violations, some of the specific safety improvements that will be made at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores include:
- Locking trash compactors when they are not being used (and only allowing trash compactors to be used by trained individuals – or under the supervision of a trained individual)
- Improving its training of employees for the procedures associated with the proper handling of chemicals and other hazardous substances
- Providing the necessary personal protective gear to employees.
Despite these steps, however, Tom O’Connor, the executive director of NIOSH has stated that, “from its overreliance on temporary labor to its failure to prevent workplace violence or sign an international labor accord to improve working conditions in Bangladesh, Wal-Mart continues to jeopardize workers’ safety both here and abroad.”
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