Wal-Mart agrees to safety improvements in more than 2,800 U.S. stores

Retailer pays $190,000 fine for safety violations in New York store

WASHINGTON Wal-Mart has agreed to make safety improvements for employees who use trash compactors and handle chemicals at more than 2,800 stores.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer entered into a corporate-wide settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to improve safety and health conditions in all 2,857 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores under federal jurisdiction. The settlement, which resolves two enforcement cases that began in 2011, includes provisions to enhance health and safety practices and training related to trash compactors, cleaning chemicals and hazard communications corporate-wide.

Wal-Mart has also agreed to pay a $190,000 fine over safety violations discovered during inspections at a Rochester, N.Y. - area store.

"This settlement will help to keep thousands of exposed Wal-Mart workers safe and healthy on the job," said Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health at the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) . "We hope this sends a strong message that the law requires employers to provide safe working conditions, and OSHA will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that all employers follow the law."

Under the settlement, trash compactors must remain locked while not in use, and may not be operated except under the supervision of a trained manager or other trained, designated monitor. Wal-Mart will also improve its hazard communications training; and, for cleaning chemicals, will enhance its procedures to ensure that employees do not handle undiluted chemicals. The company must also ensure a protective protocol is in place in case of any malfunctions with a store's cleaning chemicals dispensing equipment. Wal-Mart will ensure employees are trained on the new procedures in a language, format, and vocabulary that the workers can understand.

A summary of the agreement will be posted in each affected store.

Settlement negotiations followed citations from two separate inspections conducted at a Wal-Mart store in Rochester, N.Y. A safety inspection was initiated on Aug. 2, 2011, and a health inspection began Aug. 17, 2011. As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart has also agreed to abate other hazards in the Rochester store unrelated to the corporate-wide remedy, and will pay $190,000 in civil penalties.

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