c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to a corporatewide settlement to improve safety conditions related to trash compactors and cleaning chemicals in more than 2,800 of its stores, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Wednesday.

Wal-Mart agreed to the settlement, which includes paying a $190,000 fine, after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the Labor Department, accused the retailer of putting workers who operate trash compactors in danger. The settlement stemmed from violations found at a Wal-Mart store in Rochester, N.Y., in 2011.

Under the settlement, Wal-Mart’s trash compactors must remain locked when not in use, and may not be operated except under the supervision of a trained manager or monitor. Wal-Mart also pledged to improve training for workers using cleaning chemicals and to upgrade procedures so that workers did not handle undiluted chemicals.

Randy Hargrove, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the company long had policies to ensure employees’ safety. “When we learned of the concerns raised by OSHA at our Rochester store in 2011, we immediately addressed them and reinforced the company’s guidelines,” he said.

The settlement covers all 2,857 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in the 28 states where OSHA enforces safety and health practices, with an option for the 22 other states to request the same provisions.

OSHA also cited the Rochester store for blocked exits, but that was not part of the comprehensive agreement.

The settlement calls for Wal-Mart to hire an outside monitor to check compliance with the settlement in its stores in the 28 states, with the monitor visiting 80 percent of the stores every four months for two years. OSHA noted that it had found one repeat electrical hazard citation, one serious citation for obstructed exit routes, two serious machine guarding citations and 11 serious citations involving blood-borne pathogens.

“This settlement will help to keep thousands of exposed Wal-Mart workers safe and healthy on the job,” said David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA. “We hope this sends a strong message that the law requires employers to provide safe working conditions.”