OSHA Has Wrong Answer for Rite-Aid in Safety Violations at 11 N.Y. Stores

February 17, 2005

Safety hazards at 11 Bronx Rite Aid stores have resulted in Rite-Aid of New York Inc. being fined a total of $144,700 by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Hazards included locked or blocked emergency exits, obstructed exit routes, missing exit signs and inadequate fire extinguisher training.

The citations and fines are the result of OSHA inspections of Rite-Aid stores in the Bronx between August 2004 and January 2005. The inspection of the 2138 White Plains Rd. store was in response to an employee complaint about a locked exit. The other 10 inspections were conducted to monitor the company’s compliance with an April 2004 settlement agreement in which Rite Aid paid $90,000 in fines for previous violations and promised that all exit doors at its facilities would remain unlocked during working hours.

These latest OSHA inspections reportedly found a total of nine instances of locked or blocked exits, obstructed exit access, inadequate exit route lighting or aisles too narrow to ensure swift and safe egress in an emergency. Additional fire-related safety hazards included several instances where exit route signs and other required exit signage were not posted, in addition to unmounted or blocked fire extinguishers and failure to train workers on fire extinguisher use. Other hazards included an unguarded cardboard compactor, failure to keep walking surfaces clean and unstable storage of bulk material.

Rite Aid of New York was issued one willful citation, with a $40,000 fine, for a locked emergency exit and obstructed exit access at the White Plains Rd. store. Remaining hazards at this or the other 10 stores resulted in $92,700 in fines for 12 repeat citations and $12,000 in fines for eight serious citations.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has been cited for a substantially similar hazard in the past and that citation has become final. A serious citation is issued when death or serious injury is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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