Discount Retailer Racks Up $90,000 in Fines for Locked Emergency Exit Doors

OSHA's inspection revealed several instances where emergency exit doors in the store were padlocked during work hours and emergency exit routes were obstructed by racks of clothing and boxes of stock.

OSHA has cited Conway Stores Inc. for alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of workplace safety standards at the company’s store in the Bronx. The discount retailer faces a total of $90,000 in proposed fines for violations identified during an OSHA inspection begun in July by OSHA's Tarrytown Area Office.

OSHA's inspection revealed several instances where emergency exit doors in the store were padlocked during work hours and emergency exit routes were obstructed by racks of clothing and boxes of stock, conditions that would have prevented or impeded employees' swift exit of the workplace in the event of a fire or other emergency. In addition, a cardboard baler was operated with its door open exposing employees to crushing hazards; an unsecured compressed gas cylinder was exposed to damage; and the store lacked a continuing and effective extermination program for rats and vermin.

"OSHA standards clearly require that employees be able to immediately exit the workplace during an emergency," said Diana Cortez, OSHA's area director for the Bronx, Westchester, and Rockland counties. "When every second counts, workers can't afford to wait until keys can be located, applied to multiple padlocks, and the locks removed."

OSHA issued the store one willful citation, with a $55,000 fine, for the locked emergency exits; one repeat citation, with a $15,000 fine, for obstructed exit routes; and five serious citations with $20,000 in fines for the remaining items. In this case, the East Fordham Rd. store was cited for a similar hazard in December 2010.

"An effective illness and injury prevention program in which employers and employees work together to identify and eliminate hazards is a key safety and health resource," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

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