Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and the U.S. Labor Department on Wednesday (Aug. 7) announced a sharply reduced settlement relating to how Walmart managed how workers deal with both trash compactors and hazardous cleaning chemicals (including "11 serious bloodborne pathogens citations"). The agreement covers 2,857 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in 28 states that follow federal OSHA standards, reported The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The 22 states that operate their own OSHA inspection programs could negotiate similar agreements.
The deal has Walmart paying a $190,000 civil fine, which is not bad considering that the fine had initially been $365,500. One fine, for example, dropped from $126,500 to $35,000, according to the filed settlement.
On the trash compactor, the agreed-upon rules raise questions about what the earlier rules could have possibly been. For example, the new revised rule mandates that "No employee or manager may enter or place any part of his/her body into a trash compactor. No employee or manager may climb into a trash compactor chute, or place a substantial portion of his/her body in a trash compactor chute such that he/she could fall into the chute."
Labor officials said they hoped that the Walmart fine sends an appropriate signal to all of retail. "This settlement will help to keep thousands of exposed Walmart workers safe and healthy on the job," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels in a Labor statement. "We hope this sends a strong message that the law requires employers to provide safe working conditions, and OSHA will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that all employers follow the law."
Under the settlement, trash compactors must remain locked while not in use, and may not be operated except under the supervision of a trained manager or other trained, designated monitor. "Walmart will also improve its hazard communications training and, for cleaning chemicals, will enhance its procedures to ensure that employees do not handle undiluted chemicals," the Labor Department said, adding that Walmart "must ensure that a protective protocol is in place in case of any malfunctions with a store's cleaning chemicals dispensing equipment. Walmart will ensure employees are trained on the new procedures in a language, format, and vocabulary that the workers can understand."
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