Employees of a Duane Reade store on 6th Avenue in Manhattan would have been unable to exit the store swiftly and safely in the event of a fire or other emergency, a September 2014 inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found. As a result, OSHA has cited the company for one repeated and four serious violations of workplace safety standards. The retailer faces $77,400 in proposed fines.
Inspectors found that three emergency exit routes from the store’s basement were blocked by boxes, crates, garbage bags and merchandise stored or strewn in aisles and passageways. The emergency exit lights were not illuminated, and one exit was not marked.
“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,” said Kay Gee, OSHA’s area director in Manhattan. “This is especially troubling because we cited Duane Reade in 2013 for similar hazards at its 598 Broadway store in Lower Manhattan.”
OSHA’s inspection of the Duane Reade Inc. store #14108 at 1150 6th Ave. came in response to an employee complaint about obstructed exits. Inspectors also found that boxes of merchandise and inventory in the store’s second-floor stockroom were unsafely stacked in 10- to 12-foot piles that could tip, slide or collapse, striking or crushing workers.
A repeated violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
“These hazards from top to bottom, so they don’t occur again here or at any other Duane Reade store. The lives and well-being of employees depend on it,” Gee said.
A subsidiary of Illinois-based Walgreen Co., Duane Reade operates a chain of 250 pharmacies and convenience stores in the greater New York City area. It has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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