Home Depot’s Record of Serious Safety Violations Continues Into 2014

It may come as a shock to those in Houston and throughout the United States who regularly shop at The Home Depot, but the construction giant has a spotty record of safety violations spanning more than 10 years. According to OSHA, Home Depot USA Inc. has racked up more than 120 safety and health violation citations in the last five years, a figure that home improvement professionals, do-it-yourselfers and the Houston work injury attorney profession alike may want to take note of. One of the most recent serious incidents at a Home Depot store occurred in Chicago, where the company’s North Kimball Avenue location garnered six violations in July 2014, resulting in $110,700 of proposed fines. Of the six citations, three were considered serious and two were repeat violations involving powered industrial vehicles. When an employer has previously been cited for a similar or the same violation at any other facility within the previous five years, it is considered a repeat violation. One of the Chicago store’s repeat violations, for failing to evaluate forklift operators’ performance at least once every three years, was given because Home Depot was cited for the same violation in July 2012 at a store in Douglasville, Ga. The forklift inspection was part of a local emphasis program, designed to reduce injury and fatalities caused by industrial vehicles. OSHA reports that industrial vehicles, including forklifts, were the cause of 105 occupational fatalities between 2005 – 2013 in Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois. National incident numbers were not available. The three serious violations at the Chicago store involved hazardous working conditions that could result in serious harm to workers, much like the types of incidents a work place personal injury attorney may come across. The Chicago Home Depot apparently failed to provide an emergency eyewash station for those workers who handle corrosive materials. In addition, the store failed to require the use of face, eye and hand protection when workers checked the water or otherwise serviced industrial batteries. OSHA found that these overlooked safety protocols posed a substantial risk of serious physical harm or death. The Chicago store also received a willful violation, which OSHA describes as one that is committed with intention or voluntary disregard for the law and worker safety. The store allegedly failed to remove an industrial truck that was in need of repair from the premises. Repeat safety violations are not new for the Home Depot. In 2012, its Saratoga Springs, N.Y., store was fined $51,480 because items were stored in the working space around electrical equipment panels, restricting emergency access to the panels. The previous violation occurred in 2010 at stores in New Jersey and New Hampshire. Home Depot’s history of incidents goes back even further. in 2002, the company was fined a total of $82,940 for 86 separate violations at facilities throughout the country. In addition, between 1999 – 2002, nine workers died at Home Depot stores, some during the construction of new buildings. OSHA did not report if those incidents resulted in a wrongful death in industrial accident lawsuit claim or any other type of litigious action. The 2002 Home Depot violations, much like the more recent occurrences, were wide-ranging, from failing to provide adequate training and protection for employees responsible for cleaning up chemical and fertilizer spills, to improper storage of propane tanks in the path of forklifts. OSHA considers Home Depot a “lumber and building materials dealer” and inspects its stores with that classification in mind. Once Home Depot USA receives its citations, the company has 15 business days to either pay the fines or contest the findings. There are more than 2200 Home Depot stores in the United States, and they employ about 325,000 workers. Despite its history of repeat safety violations, the corporation maintains that worker safety is its highest priority.