OSHA cited two Dollar General stores for padlocking their emergency exits.
The agency proposed $580,000 in fines across the two stores, located in Ohio and Wisconsin.
This follows a pattern of Dollar General stores obstructing access to emergency exits, OSHA said.
Two Dollar General stores have been cited by a US federal agency for padlocking their emergency exits.
Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also reported other violations, including obstructed access to a fire extinguisher.
OSHA has previously cited other Dollar General stores for similar violations.
OSHA inspected a store in Baldwin, Wisconsin in December 2021 in response to a referral from local fire officials and found the emergency exit doors were closed and padlocked on the inside "with a bike lock and a board," meaning people would have required a key to leave. The exit was also blocked by boxes of merchandise, OSHA said.
These conditions would have prevented workers and customers from using the exits in the case of an emergency, according to OSHA, a division of the Department of Labor.
Store managers told OSHA that the doors were "frequently padlocked and blocked with a board" because they were broken and needed repairs to close properly. The store had allowed the doors to "remain in disrepair" since September 2021, OSHA said.
In addition, the store's portable fire extinguisher had been blocked with containers of items, OSHA said.
OSHA said that fire officials had inspected the store 11 times in 2021 and had ordered the facility to close six times due to what OSHA described as "hazardous conditions."
OSHA issued four willful citations against the store and proposed combined penalties of $435,081.
Another Dollar General store in Seville, Ohio had placed barrel locks on a double-door emergency exit, OSHA found in an inspection in January. The store was cited for one willful violation and OSHA proposed $145,027 in penalties.
A Dollar General spokesperson told Insider that the two stores inspected by OSHA "were not in keeping with our standards and expectations."
"Immediately following those inspections, we took action to address issues and reiterated our expectations with the store teams," the spokesperson said. "The safety of our employees and customers is of paramount importance to us, and we will continue to work cooperatively with OSHA to resolve any matters."
Since 2016, OSHA has proposed more than $4 million in penalties at Dollar General stores nationwide, with many of the citations related to obstructed access to emergency exits. One store in Missouri was cited in 2016 after inspectors found a "five-foot high, 15-foot long pile of trash" blocking an emergency exit.
"OSHA cites Dollar General stores frequently for exposing workers to serious hazards, including the use of locks at exits, which can be catastrophic in an emergency," William Donovan, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago, said in a statement.
"This company's willingness to gamble with workers' lives is disturbing and must stop before tragedy strikes."
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