Often when our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers are discussing job-related accidents or illnesses, we’re talking about high-hazard fields. These would be things like construction, road repair or firefighting – some line of work in which hazards are prevalent and injuries are common.
But a recent case out of Burlington illustrates why you can’t assume that these sort of manual labor positions are the only ones in which a worker’s safety could be jeopardized. In fact, that’s dangerous thinking because it could lead to both employers and workers becoming lax or indifferent when it comes to ensuring safety standards are established and maintained.
That appears to be what happened at the Burlington branch of Forever 21, a retail clothing store that caters to teenagers and young adults.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the store had two repeat violations relating to improper stock storage and inadequate exit routes. As a result, workers were put at risk not only from falling overhead boxes, but also of being trapped in the event of a fire or other emergency.
The store, inside a mall, had boxes piled up high in the back stock room that were not secured against displacement or collapse. Boxes were also the cause of non-existent egress routes. There were so many piled up on either side that the exit routes were effectively cut off, with workers having to climb over boxes to get to the back door.
The Los Angeles-based company faces up to $55,000 in fines due to the fact that these violations were recurring. A repeat violation is one in which a company has been cited for the same thing within the last five years. OSHA reported that another branch of the chain in New Jersey had been cited in 2011 for the exact same problems.
Large companies have a responsibility to ensure that all their work locations are secure and safe from obvious dangers.
The clothing retailer has 15 business days to decide whether to comply or appeal the decision.
Boxes aren’t the only kind of debris that can present workplace hazards. Anything that is stored or resting overhead could become a serious hazard if it isn’t properly secured.
Responsible employers know there are ways to prevent stock or debris from posing an injury risk. That includes properly securing the material or loads. That might include ensuring proper shelving, wrapping certain materials in plastic wrap and making sure that storage cases aren’t overloaded.
Secondly, when items are going to be moved, employers should make sure that workers are doing so properly. That means making sure that person has the proper equipment to safely lift the material and won’t be doing it with someone standing directly underneath. If protective equipment is required, it should be provided.
And finally, work sites should be clean and free of debris and clutter. This is one of the primary reasons why people suffer workplace falling object injuries. Often, it could have been prevented by just keeping the work site tidy.
If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.
US Labor Department’s OSHA cites Forever 21 for repeat safety hazards following inspection of Burlington, Mass., store, Feb. 12, 2013, Press Release, U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration
More Blog Entries:
Cosmetics Corp. Cited for Host of Worker Safety Violations, March 23, 2013, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog