Bay Ridge Avenue Rite Aid slapped with safety violations

September 26, 2011 Denise Romano
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A local drugstore has been slapped with more than $100,000 infines by the federal government for allegedly compromising thesafety of its workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has citedthe Rite Aid located at 6900 Fourth Avenue for numerous andrepeated violations of safety standards, including an emergencyexit blocked by garbage and debris, unsafely stacked merchandise,electrical panels blocked by cardboard and totes containingmerchandise, an ungrounded electric power strip and employeesexposed to an electrical hazard while stacking stock.

For these violations, OSHA fined the drugstore $93,500 as a repeatoffender. According to OSHA, a repeat offender is someone who hasfailed to meet these requirements more than once in the past fiveyears.

But that’s not all.

In addition, OSHA has deemed the stairway to the basement storageroom too steep, too narrow and lacking slip resistant treads; thereis an eight-foot fall hazard for employees standing on the top of aladder to store stock; boxes of merchandise are being used to openan emergency exit door; there are no portable fire extinguishers ina basement storage room and there is not enough working interlockto prevent a box crusher from operating while its door isopen.

These conditions resulted in $27,600 worth of fines for seriousviolations – which means that an employee could be seriously hurtor killed as a result.

Those who shop at the store said they were not surprised to hearthe allegations.

I did notice a lot of water on the floor and a mess on the rug,said Connie Wayne, who lives in Borough Park and usually shops at alocation near her home, but visits this Bay Ridge Avenue store whenshe picks up her grandson who attends a nearby school. The one Inormally go to is very clean and clear. The staff is helpful andeverything is in order.

Alfonso Ferrer, who lives two blocks away, said he will never gointo this store again because they don’t stock what he needs. It’snot dirty or anything, but I won’t go back there, he said. It’snot the workers’ fault. It’s just poor management. Big stores likethis shouldn’t have this problem; they should always have enoughprescriptions in stock.

But Shely Sims was amazed by the news. I am surprised to hear,she said, adding that she shops there often. I feel thateverything in there is clean and safe.

A store employee admitted being unaware of the fines. I don’t knowanything about it, said the worker, who wished to remainanonymous. I feel safe here.

A spokesperson for Rite Aid said, This is something we take veryseriously and are working closely with OSHA on thesematters.

Rite Aid has 15 business days to pay the fines, meet with OSHA orcontest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety andHealth Review Commission.

One might not think of a store as a hazardous workplace, but thefact is that these conditions expose workers to potentially deadlyfalls, crushing injuries, burns and electrocution, as well as theinability of workers and customers to exit swiftly in the event ofa fire or other emergency, said Kay Gee, OSHA’s Manhattan areadirector in a statement. The sizable fines proposed here reflectboth the severity of these hazards and the reality that thisemployer previously has been cited for similar conditions.

Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, added,For the safety and health of all its employees, the company shouldseek to identify such hazards at all of its locations and correctthem if they exist.

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