Do You Know Your Store’s Most Common OSHA Violations?

Most retail employers, even large companies with hundreds of branches, do not much worry about being inspected by OSHA; let alone cited.  It’s not that these employers are disinterested in their employees’ safety, it’s just that they have rarely experienced and OSHA visit, and with the exception of ergonomic issues at grocery stores, retail stores don’t show up on many of OSHA’s various target lists.  While understandable, this is an increasingly dangerous attitude.  Let’s review a few facts which show that retailers are more at risk for big dollar OSHA penalties than more seemingly “dangerous” industries such as construction.  Why?


  • Most big dollar OSHA penalties aren’t directly related to an employee death or serious injury.
  • The biggest dollar exposure comes from “Repeat” citations of up to $70,000 for each violation.
  • Once an employer is cited for a violation, the next violation within FIVE YEARS at ANY company location will be a repeat.  And each repeat citation during that five years drives up the penalties.
  • Common sense dictates that the most likely repeat items will be “routine” safety violations because of the sheer number of opportunities to occur, such as a damaged extension cord, a briefly blocked fire extinguisher or electric cabinet, one employee not given Hazard Communication training, a power strip used instead of a permanent electric fixture, or failure to provide annual fire extinguisher training.
  • Most retailers do not have site safety professionals and personnel don’t have the same safety awareness developed at a foundry or manufacturer.
  • And retailers have lots and lots of locations, and with span of control issues, the retailer has lots and lots of opportunities for violations!


Grocery Stores

I’m not going to talk in this article about developing a safety program and culture or how to handle an OSHA inspection.  We’re going to review common exposure areas.

The list below shows the most common OSHA standards violated in the grocery store setting:





All Standards cited for Supermarkets and Other Grocery (except Convenience) Stores


Hazard Communication.


General requirements.


Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes.


Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use.


Powered industrial trucks.


General requirements for all machines.


Portable fire extinguishers.


General PPE requirements.


Annual injury summary.


Design and construction requirements for exit routes.


Eye and face protection.


Wiring design and protection.


Housekeeping requirements.


The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout).


Guarding floor and wall openings and holes.


Handling materials – general.


Injury Forms.


Respiratory Protection.


Medical services and first aid.


Hand Protection.


Fixed industrial stairs.


Portable metal ladders.


Fixed ladders.


Emergency action plans.


Storage and handling of liquefied petroleum gases.


Multiple business establishments.


Manually propelled mobile ladder stands and scaffolds (towers).


Compressed gases (general requirements).


Occupational foot protection.




Automatic sprinkler systems.


Mechanical power-transmission apparatus.


Hand and portable powered tools and equipment, general.


Electrical Training


Use of equipment – portable cords.


Safeguards for personnel protection.

Stock Rooms

If you review the numerous six-figure OSHA citations against retailers over the last five years, you will see that the overwhelming majority of citations were for violations in the stockroom or warehouse.  Retailers operate in a “just in time” mode where they regularly receive deliveries and for a period of time, the unloading may resemble the proverbial “fire drill.”  There may be no conveyors or you may use temporary conveyors which may block exits.  Likewise, what are the likelihood that something may lean against an electric cabinet or block a fire extinguisher.  How often does someone “temporarily” store something in an electric room or closet?

Most stockrooms were not designed for their current use, so look for extension cords run over joists or tacked to a wall for dock spotlights, shrink wrappers, or PC’s.  Use permanent wiring.  Look for holes in odd electrical places, such as emergency light boxes.  If there is a microwave or coffee maker, make sure it’s properly connected.

Compactors are a regular source of OSHA citations and deaths.  Make sure the interlocks on doors are working!

Meat Department

Washington State OSHA maintains a good Meat Department checklist on its site.  The biggest problem is that guards are removed or wrongly adjusted on anything with a blade.  Don’t forget age requirements on some equipment.  Do you have lock out procedures for maintenance?  What about slip and fall avoidance?

All Employees

Many must receive OSHA Hazard Communication training for chemicals to which they may be exposed, including cleaning materials or for the dishwashers and related equipment in the deli.  Did you meet the December 2013 deadline to provide employees the Hazard Identification Training required by OSHA’s new Global Harmonization Program modifications of the Hazard Communication Standard.  Do you know what an SDS is and when you must have this document?

We’ll talk another time about basic procedures to catch violations before they occur.


About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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3 Responses to Do You Know Your Store’s Most Common OSHA Violations?

  1. Pingback: Safety Violations – Am I Repeating Myself? | Lifeline Strategies

  2. Howard,

    Very good points. I would remind you though that Federal OSHA generally will not use state plan violations to form the basis of a repeat. While Indiana OSHA has used a Federal violation to establish a repeat, that is an atypical practice for most state plans. Irrespective of these nuances, your point is well taken and employers who consider violations at other plants, in their company, as not their problem may get a nasty surprise along the way. This scenario makes settlement negotiations even more critical.


    Jeff Carter
    Retired Deputy Commissioner of Labor
    State of Indiana

  3. Remarkable! Its actually awesome post, I have got much clear idea on the topic
    of from this paragraph.

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