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November 23, 2016

OSHA launches emphasis program to protect Wilkes Barre area
retail store workers as holiday season beckons

Too often, retailers discount hazards that endanger employees

WILKES BARRE, Pa. - As retailers, consumers and workers head into the hectic holiday season, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is launching an enforcement initiative focused on protecting people employed in the retail industry in the greater Wilkes Barre area.

The agency's Regional Emphasis Program for the Retail Industry will institute a program of comprehensive safety inspections of certain retail establishments, with a focus on proper exits, material handling and storage and electrical hazards.

"Unfortunately, retail establishments - including some of the nation's leading retailers - have a long history of leaving workers vulnerable to unnecessary hazards that can cause injuries and possibly death," said Richard Mendelson, OSHA's Regional Administrator in Philadelphia. "Our initiative seeks to ensure that retail employers are fulfilling their responsibilities and keeping workers safe from common, and easily correctable, hazards such as blocked exits and storing merchandise in unsafe manners. A busy season is no excuse for ignoring safety."

Recent history shows OSHA inspections often reveal retail industry workers facing significant injury risks related to improper storage of materials, obstruction of exit routes and electrical and fire hazards. The agency has cited widely known chains repeatedly for these hazards as well as the risk of slips, trips and falls; amputations and boxes stacked perilously in storerooms. OSHA has levied more than $1M in total fines to employers in the retail store industry across the nation.

Since 2013, inspectors in the Philadelphia region have conducted 313 inspections of retail establishments, with 191 of the inspections resulting in citations. The emphasis program will cover each of the counties that fall under the jurisdiction of the Wilkes-Barre area office, including: Bradford, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne and Wyoming.

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 on the Retail REP, OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Wilkes Barre Area Office at 570-826-6538 or visit http://www.osha.gov.

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Media Contacts:

Leni Fortson, 215-861-5102, uddyback-fortson.lenore@dol.gov
Joanna Hawkins, 215-861-5101, hawkins.joanna@dol.gov

Release Number: 16-2163-PHI (OSHA 16-133 Retail REP)


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