(Update: Clarifying OSHA fatality investigation began before confidential complaint was filed)
Agency says emergency exit was blocked; store did not review emergency exit plan with new workers
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Oregon’s workplace safety agency investigated the August 2022 shooting at the east Bend Safeway, where a gunman fired numerous shots and killed a worker and customer, then killed himself as police approached. That investigation led to Safeway being fined $7,250 for two violations.
Authorities said the gunman fired at least 100 shots before and after entering the store, killing customer Glenn Bennett, 84, and later killing produce department employee Donald Surrett Jr., 66, who had hidden, then confronted the gunman with a produce knife.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Agency (Oregon OSHA) opened its investigation after initial reports of the workplace fatality, and a confidential complaint was filed a short time later, in September, Public Information Officer Aaron Corvin said.
"We addressed the complaint as part of the fatality investigation," Corvin said. "And in fact, the complaint was sustained, as indicated in one of the violations we cited."
After completing its investigation, the agency sent a Jan. 11 notice of penalty to Safeway Inc. about what it found at the store on NE Highway 20. It provided a copy of a 212-page report that included numerous interviews with employees and others, and background such as safety meeting notes and the emergency plan.
The majority of the fine, $6,500, was levied for obstruction of access to exit routes, as OSHA said it found the company “did not ensure that all exit routes located in the rear section of the store were clear of obstructions that could prohibit or delay an employee’s ability to egress from the building.”
“As a result, during an active shooter event that took place on August 28, 2022, the double door exit located next to the dairy cooler section was obstructed by approximately three merchandise carts that were stored in front of the exit doors,” the notice stated. A worksheet indicated that video footage confirmed employees’ statements that they were blocked by beverage carts.
Another $750 proposed penalty states that Safeway “did not review the emergency action plan with each covered employee when the plan was new or the employee was new to the job.”
“As a result, during an active shooter event, employees did not know the location for each emergency exit assignment located within the store,” OSHA said, giving the company until Saturday to abate the violation.
Safeway was given 30 days to appeal the proposed fines, which the company is considering, according to spokeswoman Jill McGinnis.
“The safety of our associates and customers is our highest priority, which is why we make emergency evacuation training a routine part of our store training,” McGinnis said. “We are grateful that those associates who quickly evacuated the store were able to do so unhindered.”
A violation is labeled as "serious" when it led to, or could have led to bodily harm and injury, Oregon Corvin said.
One person interviewed was quoted as saying that "both doors were blocked. I only had time to move things from in front of one door. Which made escaping during the shooting almost fatal. Because it took about 2-4 extra minutes to move the items."
It quoted supervisors as saying the blocked exits occurred several times a week and that "blocked exists and walkways have been a problem for years ... well over 10 years," with nothing done to correct the problem.
The document said the store has a documented emergency store response plan, but it did not list an exit map. In fact, it said, “Employees stated they never knew that an emergency exit was near the dairy until after the active shooter incident.”