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Commack Home Goods facing fire safety fine from OSHA

A Commack home furnishings store was hit with a proposed fine of more than $200,000 this week for having an unsafe workplace after federal inspectors found that its fire exits were blocked, a federal agency said Thursday.

The store, Home Goods, has 15 days to respond to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection of its Crooked Hill Road store.

A spokeswoman at the store's parent corporation, TJX Companies Inc., of Framingham, Mass., did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

A worker's complaint tipped off OSHA, which found 16 violations of workplace safety standards including merchandise and equipment blocking exits and fire extinguishers; a lack of fire emergency training; and boxes stored in unstable, 8-foot high tiers.

The retailer faces a total of $233,500 in proposed fines.

OSHA had cited Home Goods in 2006 and 2007 for similar conditions at the company's Mount Olive, N.J., and Somers, N.Y., locations, the U.S. Department of Labor said. As a result of these recurring conditions, OSHA issued the company five repeat citations, with $200,000 in proposed fines, for the hazards at the Commack store, the agency said.

In a statement, David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said, "It's been 99 years since the fire at The Triangle Shirtwaist Co. in New York City took the lives of nearly 150 workers and almost 19 years since two workers were killed when they were unable to exit the McCrory's store in Huntington Station, N.Y., during a fire ... Blocked fire exits can be deadly. It is that simple."

OSHA's Commack inspection identified additional hazards, including a defective fire alarm box, a missing exit sign, electrical hazards and inadequate chemical hazard communication. These conditions resulted in nine serious citations with $32,500 in fines, OSHA said.

Michaels said, "There can be no delay in exiting a workplace during a fire or other emergency when the difference between escape and injury or death can be measured in seconds."

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