New York clothing retailer Conway has been cited with OSHA violations at least three times at two of its Bronx locations for locking and blocking emergency exits, thus creating the hazardous conditions for its employees and customers and the potential for preventable tragedies. Despite OSHA inspections, the company willfully violated the safety warnings and continued the practice of locking the exits.
The Conway violations are reminiscent of the conditions that led to the most fatal industrial accident in U.S. history which occurred in 1911 in New York City. The 146 deaths and 71 injuries resulting from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire would have been entirely preventable had workers been able to escape the flames. However, the building’s exits and stairwells were kept locked by the owners, causing senseless death and injury.
As a result of this tragedy, many labor reforms were spurred and laws were developed to help protect workers. However, despite modern safety regulations, many violations still occur over 100 years later.
In addition to citations for locking emergency exits, Southern Island Stores, LLC (the parent company of Conway), was also cited for ineffective extermination of rodents due to the serious health risks workers face who are exposed to vermin.
In the event of a fire or serious emergency, having to locate keys and take the time to unlock emergency exits places workers in situations that could mean the difference between life or death.
OSHA workplace safety standards for exit routes include:
• A workplace must generally have at least 2 exit routes for evacuation that lead to outside
• Exit route doors must not be obstructed, or restricted by locks or alarms that would restrict their use
• Ceilings of exit routes must be 7 feet 6 inches at minimum
• Exit doorways must be at least 28 inches wide
In addition, employers are required to have an emergency exit plan that must be written and available to employees in a company of ten or more. A company with fewer than ten employees may orally communicate the exit plan. The emergency exit plan should include a list of procedures for reporting emergencies, evacuating, medical rescue, and information regarding the alarm alert system.
If you have been seriously injured at work due to your employer’s negligence and safety violations, you may be eligible for Worker’s Compensation. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.