Ohio OSHA Law Blog

by Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis

Cluttered workplace leads to six-figure OSHA fine

Potential OSHA problems come in all shapes and sizes. Case in point? OSHA recently fined retailer Pier One $101,420 for its failure to prevent boxes from blocking aisles and being piled at dangerous heights.

From OSHA’s news release: “Haphazardly stacked boxes can fall and injure workers, or block exit routes in an emergency,” said Christine Zortman, OSHA’s area director in Milwaukee. “Pier 1 must take responsibility to ensure the safety of its workers in all of its stores before someone is hurt or worse.”

In addition to unstable boxes and blocked aisles, inspectors cited the store for:

  • Improperly using ladders.
  • Exposing employees to fall hazards as stair and storage areas lacked railings.
  • Blocking electrical panels.
  • Allowing electrical junction boxes to lack covers.

What can employers learn from this employer’s misfortune? Clutter will cost you, and it can be costly. Clutter and mess are the first things an OSHA inspector will notice when entering your workplace. What is the first impression you want to make? One of neatness or one of mess? Which do you will think better conveys a perception that you are an employer that cares are worker and workplace safety?

In addition to the optics, clutter is both unsafe and dangerous. Blocked aisles could prevent access to exits in the event of an emergency. Stacked boxes create line-of-sight issues, as well as fall or crush hazards.

More specifically, there are multiple OSHA standards that require you to keep you workplace clean and uncluttered:

  • 1910.22: Walking and working surfaces, general requirements — “The floor of every workroom shall be maintained in a clean … condition. … Where mechanical handling equipment is used, sufficient safe clearances shall be allowed for aisles, at loading docks, through doorways and wherever turns or passage must be made. Aisles and passageways shall be kept clear and in good repairs, with no obstruction across or in aisles that could create a hazard.”
  • 1910:36: Design and construction requirements for exit routes — “Each exit route must be a permanent part of the workplace. … Objects that project into the exit route must not reduce the width of the exit route to less than the minimum width requirements for exit routes.”
  • 1910.37: Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes — “Exit routes must be free and unobstructed. No materials or equipment may be placed, either permanently or temporarily, within the exit route.”

Now is the perfect time to de-clutter your workplace. Do your business a favor and take advantage of spring-cleaning season, before OSHA comes in and forces the issue, with a hefty price tag to boot.

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