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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

DeMoulas, OSHA reach settlement over workplace safety complaints

BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with DeMoulas Super Markets Inc. concerning workplace safety complaints brought against two Market Basket stores in October.

Under the settlement, DeMoulas, based in Tewksbury, Mass., agreed to correct hazards and take substantive steps to enhance safety and health measures for employees at all of the chain’s more than 60 Market Basket stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

DeMoulas also agreed to pay $400,000 in fines. The issues were unrelated to local Market Basket locations.

The settlement resolves litigation that followed citations carrying the potential of $589,200 in fines issued by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in October 2011 after OSHA inspections identified widespread fall and laceration hazards at the stores.

Among the allegations: Market Basket managers at a store on Route 202 in Rindge didn’t call an ambulance after a worker fell and suffered broken bones and head trauma, OSHA said. Instead, the injured worker was hoisted into a wheelchair and pushed to a loading dock to wait for a family member to drive him to the hospital, OSHA said.

OSHA cited the potential for falls of 11 feet from storage mezzanines at other stores as well, including one in Concord.

“This enterprisewide settlement is significant because DeMoulas has agreed not only to correct the hazards cited during OSHA’s inspections but also to enact effective and ongoing systemic changes that will benefit all its employees,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

DeMoulas initially contested the citations to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Labor Department’s regional solicitor’s office subsequently filed a complaint with the commission asking for the hazards to be corrected.

As the result of settlement discussions with the solicitor’s office, DeMoulas has signed the agreement to correct the cited hazards and take additional preventive actions.

“DeMoulas has agreed to a comprehensive and responsible settlement that corrects past hazards and paves the way for improvements which, effectively implemented and maintained, will significantly minimize hazards and enhance workplace safety and health for employees throughout the company,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor for New England.

These improvements include a full-time safety and health director with the full authority and responsibility to develop, implement, monitor and enforce the requirements of the company’s safety and health program, OSHA announced.

Other improvements include a written safety and health program for each workplace that will include inspections to monitor and evaluate the program’s effectiveness as well as provisions to identify, document and remedy any hazards or violations, according to OSHA.

Also, DeMoulas agreed to implement a written disciplinary program for all workplaces and all employees, including management; create the position of a safety and health liaison for each supermarket department; implement formal safety and health training for all new employees and all new and existing employees on an annual basis; and include a safety and health evaluation as a material element in annual performance reviews of all store and department managers.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Meighan on Twitter at Telegraph_PatM.