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Sears Agrees to Settle with OSHA for 2005 Safety Violations

After being fined $135,000 for work safety violations by OSHA, Sears, one of the nation's largest retailers, has agreed to adopt a safety and health program to ensure all powered industrial trucks are operated safely as part of a settlement agreement with the federal agency.

"We are pleased to resolve this matter and avoid the time and expense of litigation," said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "We can quickly move forward with steps to ensure safe practices when operating powered industrial trucks and better protect Sears' employees."

OSHA cited a Sears store in Monaca, Pa. on Sept. 29, 2005 for exposing workers to 15-foot falls from powered industrial trucks. The agreement settles citations issued by OSHA following an accident investigation in which the agency found that employees were allowed to ride on unsecured platforms without guardrails on the forks of the trucks. OSHA also found that fork truck operators were not trained and the company failed to provide personal fall arrest systems to employees or equip trucks with overhead guards to protect employees from falling objects. For this violation, Sears was fined $10,000.

According to Robert Szymanski, area director of the Pittsburgh OSHA office, the practice of lifting personnel up on forks of a forklift and climbing onto storage shelves was a common one at the facility. "Management in the store was fully aware of OSHA standards but continued to allow untrained workers to perform these dangerous tasks," he said.

A call made to Sears for comment on June 29 was not returned.

Foulke stated that Sears' desire to resolve the matter demonstrates their commitment to ensure safety for its employees. "This agreement represents a major commitment to ensure safety and provide the employees the needed training and protection," he said. "Sears has agreed to implement changes not only at the Pennsylvania store but also at all locations within federal OSHA jurisdiction."

Under terms of the agreement, Sears' safety and health program will include formal instruction, practical training and the evaluation of each truck operator's performance at least once every 3 years. The company also has committed to maintaining all powered industrial trucks in safe operating condition, and implementing and enforcing a corporate-wide policy that allows only properly trained employees to be elevated and operate the trucks.

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