Tom Tobin, Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (USA TODAY) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to make safety improvements at more than 2,800 stores for employees who use trash compactors and handle chemicals as part of an agreement with the Labor Department.
The retailer has agreed to pay a $190,000 fine over safety violations that were found during inspections at a Rochester, N.Y., area Supercenter.
The agreement, announced Wednesday, stems from two 2011 inspections by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the store in Gates, N.Y., that found serious hazards affecting Walmart workers.
The agreement applies to 2,857 Walmart and Sam's Club stores that are under federal OSHA supervision in 28 states. The states that operate their own inspection programs could negotiate similar agreements.
The hazards included an unlocked and poorly secured trash compactor, an unguarded grinder, obstructed exit routes, an absence of training in the use of the compactor and a general lack of information and training regarding the use of hazardous chemicals.
Walmart had been cited for similar violations of workplace safety between 2008 and 2010 at workplaces in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Dakota and Oklahoma, according to the OSHA news release that announced the initial infractions.
At the time of the announcement, Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo, said, "The sizable fines proposed here reflect not only the seriousness of these conditions but the fact that several of them are substantially similar to hazards identified at nine other Wal-Mart locations in New York and eight other states."
The agreement reached with OSHA reduces the original fine from $365,000.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said Wednesday that the violations have been corrected at the Gates store and the safety problems cited were not found in other Walmart stores.
Hargrove said the agreement was in line with Walmart's corporate policy to create a safe working environment for its employees.
Under the settlement, Walmart has agreed to lock compactors when they're not in use. In addition, they can only be operated "under the supervision of a trained manager." The company also agreed to improve its procedures regarding use of chemicals. Workers will not be required to handle "undiluted" cleaning chemicals.
The company also agreed to improve its training in the use of chemicals and dangerous equipment.
Hargrove said the agreement will be implemented in the 621 Sam's Club and 4,069 Walmart stores in the United States.
According to the settlement, a copy of the agreement is to be posted in every Walmart.