OSHA Fines New Jersey Distribution Center $123,100 for Workplace Safety Violations

OSHA proposed $123,100 in penalties for Edison, N.J.-based O.C.E. Warehouse and Distribution Center for alleged workplace safety and health violations, including failing to provide unobstructed exit routes for employees in case of emergency.

OSHA initiated its inspection on July 29, 2008, in response to a referral from the Edison New Jersey Department of Public Safety – Division of Fire, which alleged the facility's fire exits and aisles were blocked and that unsecured merchandise was being stored on racks. The inspection resulted in citations for two willful violations, with a penalty of $100,000, and 12 serious violations, with a penalty of $23,100. The Edison facility employs 82 people.

"These violations severely limit the company's ability to protect employees in the face of fire or another emergency," said Patricia Jones, area director of OSHA's Avenel Area Office in New Jersey. "By establishing an effective health and safety management system, the center can eliminate the violations and ensure a safe and healthy workplace."

The willful violations include failure to continuously maintain exit routes free of obstructions or impediments and for storing materials in damaged racks. OSHA issues a willful violation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Some of the serious violations include the company's failure to properly identify exit doors, supply employees with personal protective equipment, remove defective forklift trucks, provide adequate training, provide adequate evaluations and procedures for industrial forklift operators and provide proper storage in workspace areas around electrical equipment. 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.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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