Phoenix Family Dollar store under state investigation following air conditioning woes

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- On Wednesday, FOX 10 reported on a Family Dollar store in Phoenix where workers were sweating it out for nearly a month without air conditioning.

After the story aired, the store was shut down while technicians made repairs.

Working under extreme heat conditions could be dangerous, and it is considered a serious occupational hazard. While there's no specific law about providing air conditioning for workers, state and federal agencies expect employers to be proactive in preventing heat illness.

"They should be planning for it," said Jessie Atencio, Director of the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH). "Figuring out what are we going to do for shade, what are we going to do for water, and how often we're going to rest in between to have a productive day."

Providing enough water is key. According to state standards, employees should have access to at least eight ounces of water for every 15 minutes. Some construction companies go even further.

"So they provide ice, they provide water refilling stations with filtered water, they provide refuge, and what I'm talking about, they put tents up with cooling fans inside there," said Atencio.

Compliance Officers are currently looking into whether corporate managers for the store met basic requirements of water, rest, and shade for their employees during the several weeks the AC was not working. Companies that don't meet heat safety standards can face fines.

"We can issue a citation that can go from $7,000 to $70,000 based on willfulness," said Atencio. "Willfulness is dependent on whether they were aware of the hazard in the first place, and that there was some standard out there that says you can't do this."

Employees can call the Industrial Commission of Arizona, or go online to report any workplace concerns or issues, and even ask questions. Those who file claims against their employer can remain anonymous.

FOX 10 has contacted Dollar Tree Inc. to update them that the AC is now working, and asked why several weeks passed before technicians came out to fix it. A representative did not address our questions, and simply said, "Terrific. That's great news."