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Please note: As of January 20, 2017, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

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."

Forever 21 must take steps to address these types of hazards effectively at its stores. - Warren Simpson,   OSHA area director, HartfordDuring 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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Media Contacts:

Ted Fitzgerald 617-565-2075 fitzgerald.edmund@dol.gov
Andre J. Bowser 617-565-2074 bowser.andre.j@dol.gov

Release Number: 15-805-BOS


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