Reminiscent of the precursors that led to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and Hamlet Imperial Foods fires, a Wisconsin Dollar General store was cited for using a padlock on an emergency exit to prevent workers from exiting the store.

OSHA inspectors responded to a referral from local fire officials and found emergency exit doors closed and padlocked on the inside with a bike lock and a board. Boxes of merchandise blocked the exit. In an emergency, these conditions would prevent workers and others from exiting the store through these emergency exits.

Store managers told OSHA inspectors the exit doors needed repairs to close properly and were frequently padlocked and blocked with a board while employees were present. OSHA determined that Dollar General allowed the door to remain in disrepair since September 2021. Fire officials inspected the store 11 times in 2021 and ordered the facility to close six times due to hazardous conditions.

OSHA issued four willful citations for blocking emergency routes, exits, and fire extinguishers and failing to leave adequate space around electrical panels. The agency proposed penalties of $435,081.

A similar inspection was conducted at a Dollar General store in Seville, Ohio, on January 11th, 2022. OSHA inspectors discovered barrel locks on the inside of a double–door emergency exit, which requires special knowledge and additional time to open and might prevent a safe and quick exit in an emergency. The agency cited the store for one willful violation and proposed $145,027 in penalties.

Since 2017, OSHA has issued Dollar General stores numerous repeat and willful citations at locations nationwide. Inspectors routinely identify violations related to obstructed exit routes, portable fire extinguishers, and blocked electrical panels. Recent fines for Dollar General exceed 4 million dollars.

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About the Author

Jon Knight

Jon Knight leads the NASP Team’s media creation department. He has been involved with workplace safety training since 2017 with a focus on course creation. He also provides video production and voiceovers for NASP content.
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