Employers have an obligation to provide safe workplaces. This includes making sure that in the event of a fire or other emergency, workers have a clear path to an exit that allows them to evacuate a building quickly and safely.
The pharmacy giant Duane Reade was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) because one of its stores in Manhattan, at 1150 6th Avenue, failed to provide a clear exit path. The OSHA inspection was the agency’s response to an employee complaint alleging the store’s exits were blocked. Additionally, the inspection revealed that boxes of merchandise in the stockroom were stacked as high 12 feet, and so improperly stacked that they could easily tip, slide or collapse, creating a significant safety hazard.
The violation is the second one of this kind for a Duane Reade store in New York City. The first occurred at a lower Manhattan store at 594 Broadway in 2013. A similar violation occurred at the same lower Manhattan store in 2008.
The Manhattan area director of OSHA said, “An exit route should not be an obstacle course. Seconds count during a fire or other emergency. These obstructions steal away precious moments employees could use to save themselves. She also said, “”Finding hazards at one location is of serious concern; hazards replicated at an employer’s other work sites indicates a disturbing pattern. Duane Reade must take effective steps to identify and eliminate such hazards-not just here, but at all its stores.”
The recent inspection of the 6th Avenue store found that three emergency exit routes from the basement were blocked by merchandise, boxes, garbage bags and crates. One exit was not marked, and the emergency exit lights were not working or not turned on.
The company was cited for four serious and one repeat violations of workplace safety regulations. The proposed fine is $77,400. However, the retailer has 15 business days to respond. The company’s options include paying the fine and correcting the problems, meeting with the area director of OSHA, or contesting the findings before an independent review commission.