An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined a Forever 21 store at Westfarms Mall in Farmington, Connecticut, had failed to clear its emergency exits adequately, increasing safety risks for employees in the event of an evacuation.
What requirements did Forever 21 violate?
The inspection, conducted in November 2014, revealed that the fashion retailer had been storing boxes in the hallway that connected the main space of the store to the emergency exit. Not only were boxes stacked 10 feet high in an unstable manner — making them liable to crash on employees rushing to leave in an emergency — but they also reduced the amount of passable exit space to 23 inches, below the required limit for 28 inches.
Nor was this the first time that Forever 21 had been cited for this issue. According to an OSHA press release, the federal agency had investigated 37 of the retail chain's stores in the last five years, finding that 12 of its locations had blocked emergency exits in an unsafe manner.
"Emergency exits and hallways were blocked by store inventory. Boxes were unsafely stacked, which created serious safety threats," OSHA's Hartford area director, Warren Simpson, said in an official statement. "Four stockroom employees were assigned to work in these conditions. At the time of the inspection, they were working around-the-clock before Black Friday, when inventory levels were higher."
Because this was a repeated safety violation, OSHA issued $165,000 in proposed fines against the Connecticut store.
How can employers meet workplace safety standards?
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