OSHA Fines Auto Parts Retailer for Safety Hazards

August 22, 2005

Fall hazards and an obstructed exit at a Merrimack, New Hampshire warehouse store have resulted in a total of $73,000 in fines from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

V.I.P. Discount Auto Parts, based in Lewiston, Maine, was cited for one alleged willful and two alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards following an OSHA inspection prompted by an employee complaint.

OSHA cited the company for willfully exposing workers to falls by failing to provide stair towers long enough to reach the top rows of 16-foot storage racks safely. To remove tires from the uppermost rows, workers climbed on the stair tower’s railings or the storage rack’s shelving, both of which provided hazardous access. The company was fined $70,000 for this willful violation, which is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

“Company management clearly knew about this hazard but did not address it, even though the issue had repeatedly been raised by workers and store management,” said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA’s New Hampshire area director. “It shouldn’t take a significant fine to compel an employer to supply a basic, necessary and clearly- recognized safeguard.”

OSHA’s inspection also found that the store lacked signs to clearly direct workers to emergency exits and that one of the emergency exit doors was welded shut, rendering it unusable. These conditions resulted in two serious citations and $3,000 in fines. A serious violation is a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

V.I.P. Discount Auto Parts has 15 business days from receipt of the 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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