Westfarms Mall Forever 21 Fined $165,000 for Workplace Hazards: OSHA

A popular clothing store with trending fashion for teenage girls and young women is facing $165,000 in fines after being cited three times for safety hazards deemed as dangerous to employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Store inventory frequently blocks emergency exits at the Forever 21 store at the mall, one of many locations under fire for Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations, according to the Department of Labor.

“Emergency exits and hallways were blocked by store inventory. Boxes were unsafely stacked, which created serious safety threats,” Warren Simpson, OSHA's Hartford area director, said in a 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.”

When the Farmington store was inspected in November, there were boxes sprawling from the store to an emergency exit, reducing the exit-way from 28 to 23 inches, according to the Department of Labor. Boxes as tall as 10 feet also blocked emergency exit routes and were stacked in a precarious manner that posed the risk of falling and injuring store employees, the Department of Labor reported.

This is not the first time employees in Forever 21 stores in multiple locations have been put at risk due to the conditions, according to OSHA. Forever 21 Retail Inc. has been cited 12 times in 37 inspections for similar violations, including locations in Bridgewater, New Jersey in 2012 and Burlington, Massachusetts in 2013, OSHA reported.

OSHA is issuing fines to the chain, including $165,000-worth at the Westfarms store.

“The company’s corporate office is responsible for safety and health requirements at retail locations nationwide, yet it allows these hazards to occur repeatedly,” Simpson said. “Forever 21 must take steps to address these types of hazards effectively at its stores.”

Forever 21 has 15 business days to comply and be inspected by OSHA's area director again or contest the findings, according to the Department of Labor.

People with questions, seeking compliance assistance or wishing to file a complaint or report injuries stemming form workplace hazards can call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or the Hartford office at 860-240-3152.

More information is available at www.osha.gov.

The complete list of citations can be viewed online.

NBC Connecticut visited the Forever 21 at the Westfarms Mall and was unable to get a comment from the store.

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