Thursday, May 28, 2009

OSHA fines Wal-Mart $7k for employee’s trampling death

Earlier this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate store management after completing an investigation into the death of an employee last year.

On November 28, 2008, Jdimytai Damour, a seasonal worker, was trampled to death by a crowd of customers rushing into the store to take advantage of its annual “Blitz Friday” pre-holiday sales event at a New York store.

The OSHA inspection "found that the store's employees were exposed to being crushed by the crowd due to the store's failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management principles," according to a press release.

The citation carries a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum amount for a serious safety violation. Within 15 days from the receipt of the citation, Wal-Mart must comply, hold an informal conference with OSHA or contest the citation.

OSHA said in a statement that Wal-Mart did not give employees enough training or tools to deal with the large crowd of shoppers that day.

"This was an unusual situation but not an unforeseen one," said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA's acting area director for Long Island. "The store should have recognized, based on prior "Blitz Friday" experiences, the need to implement effective crowd management to protect its employees."

Though the $7,000 fine equals the amount of money Wal-Mart makes in about 18 seconds, the retail giant may still contest the OSHA violation, saying that the trampling was unforeseeable.

The criminal investigation into Damour’s death ended earlier this month after Wal-Mart agreed to pay nearly $2 million and improve safety at its 92 New York stores. Wal-Mart also said it would consider making safety improvements in more of its stores outside of New York.

While this case may have been an “unusual situation,” it still brings needed attention to the importance of employee safety training. From learning how to work in the summer heat to managing crowds during the holidays, every season comes with its own set of safety challenges.

To help your employees prevent injuries, the National Safety Council has designated June as National Safety Month. The Council tackles a different workplace safety issue each week: teen driving, fall prevention, overexertion and distracted driving. For more information, visit the official 2009 National Safety Month site.

For more information on employee safety, read these helpful posts and articles:

The heat is on: Stress worker safety in the summer sun

Danger! I mean peligro! No, gefahr!

Is the “dork factor” hampering your safety training?

The ugly side of safety incentives

Name your poison: Dealing with MSDS sheets

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