Walmart's woes: Stores in Cobleskill and Monticello face sanctions

Yet another local Walmart is facing the wrath of regulators -- this time, for workplace safety violations.

A Walmart store in Cobleskill is facing over $50,000 in fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for repeatedly violating workplace safety standards, according to an OSHA press release issued last week.

Federal inspectors found blocked emergency exits, missing fire extinguishers and other violations at the store:

OSHA found that emergency exit access from a receiving and storage area was obstructed by the storage of pallets containing merchandise and equipment, and employees were not able to safely operate pallet jacks in aisles and passageways that were obstructed by stacked merchandise. In addition, portable fire extinguishers were not mounted and located in safely accessible areas, and the lack of a protective fitting and strain relief for an electrical conduit entering a control box presented an electrical hazard...

...Additionally, a citation with a $4,400 fine has been issued for a serious violation involving a lack of eye, face and hand protection as well as safety training for employees operating cardboard balers. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Meanwhile, a little further south, the rodent-infested Monticello Walmart may have its license to sell food revoked. The store has now failed five consecutive inspections. This week, a special hearing was held in Albany by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to consider the store's license.

The Times Herald-Record reports that Walmart has dispatched pest-control manager Derrick Pehlman from the store's Arkansas headquarters to deal with Monticello's problems. Pehlman blames it on the rain:

Pehlman said that a local pest-management company was contracted to visit the store every month to ensure the store was clean. But, he said, he did not hear about the severity of the problem till the store failed inspection in January.

At one point, Pehlman was handed photographs of the store's exterior. He noted that the store is on a hill and is backed by woods. He suggested that those woods were a refuge for rodents fleeing flooding last year.

"Everything headed for the hills," he said. "That's where they were — mice, dogs, cats."