Region 2 News Release: NY 179
SEARS STORE IN BROOKLYN CITED BY OSHA FOR PADLOCKING FIRE EXITS,
OTHER ALLEGED FIRE SAFETY VIOLATIONS; $82,500 IN PENALTIES PROPOSED
August 21, 2000
Contact: Chester J. Fultz
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the Sears Roebuck and Company store at 5200 Flatbush Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York, and proposed penalties of $82,500 against the firm for one alleged willful violation, two alleged repeat violations, and two alleged serious violations of OSHA standards. The company has until September 12 to contest the citations.
According to OSHA area director Richard Mendelson, OSHA received a complaint in December about padlocked fire exits and contacted the store, which responded with a letter stating that the exits had been unlocked.
However, another complaint about locked exits was received in March, prompting an immediate inspection. OSHA compliance officers found several violations at the store.
"This employer chose to risk employee's lives in a misguided attempt to reduce shoplifting," Mendelson. "Even after being contacted by us and replying in writing that the doors were unlocked, Sears managers continued to lock the doors while employees were in the store."
OSHA alleges that the company willfully violated OSHA's means-of-egress standard by padlocking fire exits. The alleged willful violation carries a proposed penalty of $55,000.
The store was charged with two alleged repeat violations carrying a total proposed penalty of $25,000 for failure to post required exit signs as well as signs indicating which doors are not exits. A repeat violation is one for which an employer has been previously cited for the same or a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Sears was previously cited for this type of violation in Syracuse in February, 1999; in Bayshore, New York, in February 1998; and in Boca Raton, Florida in July, 1997.
OSHA cited Sears for having a door designated as an exit which led to a room subject to being locked, an alleged serious violation with a proposed penalty of $2,500.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as a condition which exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result.
The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Manhattan area office, located at 6 World Trade Center, room 881, New York, New York, telephone (212) 466-2481.