OSHA Cites Forever 21 for Safety Violations

Watchdog proposed $236,500 in penalties for fast-fashion chain.

NEW YORK — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited fashion retail chain Forever 21 for exposing employees to safety hazards at its stores in Paramus, N.J., and Manhattan.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

OSHA inspected both stores in July after receiving complaints alleging violations and proposed $236,500 in penalties. Inspectors cited the company for four repeat violations at the Paramus store, located in the Garden State Plaza mall, including obstructed exit routes, a fire extinguisher that was not mounted and readily accessible, stored material that was not secured against sliding or collapse, and fluorescent lights that had no cover to prevent accidental contact or breakage.

Inspectors issued citations for two repeat violations to the Manhattan store, at 1540 Broadway, including obstructed exit routes and fluorescent lights with no covers. OSHA also issued what’s known as a serious citation because the store was not kept clean and orderly.

“It is unacceptable for Forever 21 to continue repeating these violations, which are common among retailers and put workers at serious risk,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “Retail managers have a legal responsibility to inspect their stores, identify potential hazards and quickly eliminate them to ensure worker safety and health.”

A repeat citation is issued when a substantially similar violation is found at any of an employer’s facilities in the U.S. within five years of a previous citation. The company was previously cited for these violations in 2012. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Forever 21 has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Both citations were dated Jan. 2.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.