NEW YORK -- A Manhattan-based women's jewelry and accessories maker faces $47,600 in proposed penalties from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing workers to blocked exits, fire and safety hazards at its 254 W. 35th St. location. In response to a complaint alleging unsafe workplace conditions, Natasha Accessories Ltd. was cited for eight serious and three repeat violations, following an inspection by OSHA's Manhattan Area Office that began on Feb. 7.
'Worker safety is paramount. Blocked exits, missing or unlit exit signs and obstructed sprinkler heads are serious, even potentially deadly hazards. During an emergency, such as a fire, a clear and well-labeled exit route could mean the difference between life and death for employees,' said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director for Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
A total of eight serious violations, with $30,800 in fines, were cited for blocked exits; propped-open fire doors; lack of emergency exit lighting in stairways; obstructed sprinkler heads; slip and fall hazards; electrical hazards; and unsafely stacked boxes. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA also found hazards similar to those cited during a 2011 inspection of Natasha's West 36th Street location. These included a lack of directional emergency exit signs, unilluminated exit signs and nonexit doors that were not marked. The lack of clear, understandable signage and lighting could prevent employees from exiting the work area swiftly in a fire or emergency. OSHA issued three repeat citations, carrying $16,800 in fines, to Natasha for these recurring hazards. A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any of its facilities in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
'To prevent potentially hazardous incidents from occurring, employers should implement an effective emergency response plan* that includes conducting occasional fire drills and ensuring that exits and fire abatement systems are always properly maintained and functioning,' said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.
Natasha has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's New York City office at 212-620-3200.
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 working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.