May 12, 2015BOS 2015-103
Forever 21 Retail Inc. store in Connecticut among those endangering
employees because of obstructed emergency exit routes
Westfarms Mall location receives 3 repeated citations, faces $165K in fines
HARTFORD, Conn. – Emergency exits blocked by piles of store inventory appears to be a recurring hazard at Forever 21. The fashion retailer's employees at Westfarms Mall in Farmington were among the chain's workers put at risk of not being able to exit the store swiftly because of fire or another emergency, U.S. Department of Labor inspectors determined after receiving a complaint.
"Emergency exits and hallways were blocked by store inventory. Boxes were unsafely stacked, which created serious safety threats," said Warren Simpson, Occupational Safety and Health Administration area director in the Hartford Area Office. "Four stockroom employees were assigned to work in these conditions. At the time of the inspection, they were working around-the-clock before Black Friday, when inventory levels were higher."
During the November 2014 inspection, boxes were stored in the hallway leading from the retail space to an emergency exit, which reduced the exit to 23 inches of passable space. Required space for exits is a minimum of 28 inches. Additionally, the emergency exit routes were obstructed by piles of boxes as high as 10 feet. Boxes were stored unstably and could fall and injure workers.
Forever 21 employees have been exposed to these dangers previously. OSHA has conducted 37 inspections of company stores in the past five years. It cited the women's fashion retailer 12 times for similar hazards, including stores in Bridgewater, New Jersey, in 2012 and Burlington, Massachusetts, in 2013. Due to the recurring nature of these hazards, OSHA has cited Forever 21 Retail Inc. for three repeated violations. Proposed fines total $165,000 for the conditions at the Westfarms Mall store.
"The company's corporate office is responsible for safety and health requirements at retail locations nationwide, yet it allows these hazards to occur repeatedly," said Simpson. "Forever 21 must take steps to address these types of hazards effectively at its stores."
The citations can be viewed here.*
An OSHA QuickCardTM with emergency exit route information is available online.
Forever 21 Retail has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
"To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Hartford Area Office at 860-240-3152.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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Release Number: 15-805-BOS
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).
*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.