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Federal government cites safety win for Wal-Mart employees

With annual profits topping $466 billion, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is undisputedly an American business success story. Concerns related to health and safety violations at several Wal-Mart stores, however, has many wondering whether corporate profits are trumping workplace safety. In fact, health and safety citations issued against the big-box retailer recently lead to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Under the provisions of the recent settlement, Wal-Mart agreed to pay a $190,000 fine and work to improve numerous health and safety practices that were previously cited by inspectors at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as being problematic. Included in these safety violations were the unsafe and improper use of trash compactors, failure to train employees on the use and handling of hazardous chemicals and the unsafe use of electrical equipment and power sources.

With more than 2,800 stores in the U.S., Wal-Mart employees thousands of fulltime, part-time and temporary employees. The company's growing reliance on temporary or seasonal workers in recent years has gained criticism from workplace safety advocates who are concerned such workers do not receive proper training. Additionally, the company was previously cited for failing to provide training literature and information in the native langauge of many temporary workers.

All business owners have the responsibility to provide for the safety and wellbeing of its employees. Often employees and workers wrongly assume that large companies and corporations are in compliance with state and federal safe workplace laws. In some cases, however, such companies are guilty of cutting corners to cut costs. Doing so, however, often results in workers sustaining injuries.

North Carolina workers who have been injured while performing job-related duties may choose to seek legal advice. In many cases, a worker's compensation lawsuit is an appropriate means to recovering compensation related to physical injuries, lost wages and permanent disability.

Source: EHS Today, "Wal-Mart Agrees to Improve Workplace Safety and Health in 2,857 Stores," Sandy Smith, Aug. 7, 2013

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