Federal panel upholds $10K US Department of Labor citation litigated by Walmart for years over hazardous shelving
WASHINGTON – A federal panel has affirmed that Walmart Inc. violated federal workplace safety standards at its warehouse in Johnstown, New York, when it failed to prevent stored merchandise from falling onto – and seriously injuring – an employee in 2017.
The Feb. 9, 2023, decision by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission found the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the global discount retailer correctly for failing to meet the agency’s safety standard for storage of material that requires that items stored in tiers must be stable and secure against sliding and collapse.
The commission also ordered Walmart to correct the cited hazards within six months, given the physical changes the company must make at the warehouse to come into compliance with the standard. In affirming the citation, the commission rejected Walmart’s defense that the storage racks were “standard in the industry,” finding that even if true – which Walmart did not prove – its managers knew the racks posed a hazard to employees.
In response to a report of a worker’s injury on Feb. 25, 2017, OSHA investigators determined that the Walmart warehouse worker suffered long-term injury when their head and neck were struck by a package that fell from storage racks above. Inspectors learned another employee operating a forklift in an adjacent aisle inadvertently struck the pallet on which the merchandise was stacked.
OSHA then issued Walmart Inc. a citation for violating the agency’s standard for secure storage and proposed a $10,684 penalty.
The commission’s decision comes after Walmart challenged OSHA’s findings, claiming the standard did not apply to the pallets Walmart used in its racking system. After several years of litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found the cited standard applied to Walmart and directed the commission to again review the matter. The retail giant now has 60 days to appeal the decision.
Walmart operates about 10,500 stores and clubs under 46 banners in 24 countries and e-commerce websites. The company employs about 2.3 million people around the world, including nearly 1.6 million in the U.S.