Safety and OSHA News

OSHA cites store chain in connection with violent death of clerk

OSHA investigated a chain of four convenience stores after a clerk at one died as result of injuries she suffered in a robbery. The robber dowsed the 76-year-old woman with a flammable liquid and set her on fire.

On May 20, 2012, Nancy Harris was working alone at the Whip-In convenience store in Garland, Texas.

A robber entered the store, cleaned out the cash register and then set Harris on fire.

After the robber fled, Harris stumbled out of the store, still on fire. Police happened to be passing by. Officers were able to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, and Harris was able to give them a description of the robber before she was taken to a hospital.

She suffered burns over 40% of her body. Harris clung to life for nearly a week before succumbing to her injuries.

Police arrested Matthew Lee Johnson and charged him with capital murder.

Workplace not free of recognized hazards

OSHA conducted investigations at four convenience stores owned by TMT, Inc., in the Dallas area, including the one in Garland.

Each store was cited with violating OSHA’s general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause serious injury or death, in this case, workplace violence. The four serious citations total $19,600.

“Handling money, working alone and standing behind open counters leave employees vulnerable to violent crimes,” said Stephen Boyd, OSHA’s area director in Dallas. “If the employer had conducted an analysis to identify risk for violence, implemented appropriate control measures and provided training to ensure awareness of potential violence, it is possible that this tragic loss of life could have been avoided.”

TMT has 15 work days to decide whether to contest the fines.

OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening and disruptive behavior that occurs at a work site.

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  • Jason B

    This isn’t a workplace safety problem, it is a problem that resides in today’s society. For any type of retail establishment, this type of situation is almost impossible to predict. Short of the employer receiving a note informing of the plans to rob a store and the store then ignoring it, they should not be cited for some nutjob doing what he did.

    Have we really reached the point where any retail establishment lacking bulletproof glass at the counter gets cited for some sick person’s actions?

    Was the theater where the Aurora shooter took place fined not not preventing the shooting spree? Or was that excusable since no theater employees received injury?

  • Guest

    Does keeping a workplace free of recognized hazards now apply to people who walk through the door of any company? This is crazy. Matthew Lee Johnson is now a recognized hazard according to OSHA. How could the company have identified that hazard prior to him setting the clerk on fire?

  • Guest

    Heh. This is a comment on the OSHA-Walmart trampling article from 2 years ago. It is almost like a crystal ball:

    DMac Says:

    October 19th, 2010 at 5:57 pm
    Give me a break. How many Christmas’ prior did WalMart and others like it hold doorbusting sales? Instead of OSHA fining these guys, they should be held accountable to draft a requirement for such “easy forseeable” hazards. Instead, it is easy to come in after the fact, and hold somebody responsible for a rule that is not written or required, and decide to fine them based on a hide behind General Duty Clause. Look, I have family who particpate in these doorbusters, would I allow that if it was so easy and obvious? Has your family? Again – it is forseeable that a gunman will walk into a business today and kill somebody, happens all the time, is the employer responsible? My answer is NO. Will the General Duty Clause cover that too? Before it is said, they are comparible – one comes in the form of a group of over agitated shoppers, and another comes from an over agitated person – the only difference is numbers….

  • Katmandu

    One more reason for the Second Amendment, and another example of OSHA’s overreach. Time to put the genie back in the bottle, though it will never happen with this administration whose raison d’etre is expansion of government power through any means possible.

  • TedBean

    We weren’t told the details. I’ve worked in a convenience store. There are steps a retailer can take to minimize the threat of violence. Video cameras are one. Only allowing a certain amount of money in the register is another (everything above that amount is dropped into a safe). Keep the front windows clear so people can see inside. Maybe offer free coffee to police so they drop in from time to time. Certainly, an alarm button by the cash register would be a requirement. Bad things can still happen, but to say that because there are things beyond our control we are not responsible for any precautions is absurd. Depending on the details, OSHA may have gotten this one right.

  • Robert K.

    The fines constitute revenue. Any excuse to exact a fine and leave it to the company fined to challenge it.