Blocked, Locked Exits, Numerous Other Safety Hazards Lead to $186,500 in OSHA Fines

OSHA went grocery shopping in Manhattan recently and came up with a bushel basket of violations and fines for New York grocery chain Gristede's Food Inc.

Namdor Inc., doing business as Gristede's Foods, failed to safeguard workers against a variety of hazards at eight of its Manhattan stores, says the agency, which issued $186,500 in fines.

The grocery store chain was cited for a total of 73 alleged serious and other violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following a series of inspections prompted by a Feb. 19 accident at the chain's 205 East 96th St. store in which an employee's arm was severed in an unguarded cardboard baler.

"Protecting worker safety and health must be a priority for employers. An employer has the obligation to provide safe and healthful working conditions at all its worksites," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "Gristede's Food's failure to do so calls for this significant enforcement action. The department will not hesitate to take significant action in such cases."

OSHA found that the baler at the East 96th St. location lacked any machine guarding to prevent employees from coming in contact with its moving parts and that all eight stores lacked an energy control program to prevent the accidental startup of machinery during maintenance.

Other cited hazards included blocked exit access at all eight stores, locked exit doors at five stores, missing exit signs at seven stores, electrical and machine guarding hazards at five stores, failure to post and certify occupational illness and injury logs at six stores, insufficient clearance for fire sprinklers at five stores and two instances where walk-in freezers lacked a means by which employees could open the door from the inside.

OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result. An other-than-serious violation is a condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.

The company has three weeks from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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