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Labor Department presses penalties against DeMoulas

Staff report
January 18. 2012 10:51PM

MANCHESTER - The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking an order from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to force DeMoulas Super Markets Inc. to comply with OSHA fall and laceration hazard standards at more than 60 stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The filing by the Labor Department's regional solicitor's office in Boston is part of an ongoing dispute since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Concord area office issued citations in October seeking $589,000 in fines for fall hazards at Market Basket stores in Rindge and Concord

'Hazardous conditions at multiple locations that expose employees to serious injuries demand a swift and comprehensive corrective response at the corporate level,' Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels said in a statement. 'OSHA insists that this employer completely and effectively eliminate the hazards it never should have allowed to exist in the first place.'

Market Basket is contesting those citations before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Attorney James F. Laboe, of Orr and Reno law firm in Concord, who represents Market Basket, said because the proposed OSHA penalty exceeded $100,000, the parties have been in nonbinding mediation. 'We've been working in good faith with the secretary of labor to find common ground, but we're just not there yet,' he said.

Market Basket has two days of mediation scheduled at the end of March, he said. 'The hope is that we'll reach common ground that both sides can live with,' he said.

It is only the second time the Labor Department has sought enterprise-wide relief from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, according to a press release. The first time was against the U.S. Postal Service in July 2010 for correction of electrical work safety violations at 350 postal facilities throughout the nation. That matter is pending.

Market Basket attorney Laboe said, 'Quite frankly, I've been doing this for over 10 years, and I do not think that the Occupational Safety and Health Act authorizes this kind of broad relief, but it's never been tested before.

'It would be a case of first impression if we end up continuing to dispute that issue,' he said.

According to OSHA's October citation, a worker at its Rindge store fell 11 feet to a concrete floor in April 2011 from a storage mezzanine.

'Instead of calling for emergency help, store management lifted the injured worker from the floor, put him in a wheelchair and pushed him to the store's receiving dock to wait for a relative to take him to the hospital,' an OSHA news release said at the time.

The employee sustained broken bones and head trauma on April 17, OSHA said.

OSHA's investigation also documented amputation hazards at multiple sites, the federal agency said.

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