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Hawaii Warehouse Cited for Sealed Exits 
 

8/20/2013  By Roy Maurer 
 
 
 

A Honolulu refrigeration warehouse was fined $251,330 after federal and state investigators discovered 63 health and safety violations, including locked and sealed exit doors.

Unicold Corp. was inspected jointly by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Hawaii’s Occupational Safety and Health Division. The inspections were conducted under OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for facilities with highly hazardous chemicals. The facility operates with an ammonia refrigeration system.

Thirteen of the warehouse’s exit doors were locked from the outside and sealed shut, according to OSHA. Workers could not open or reach emergency-exit doors because filled storage racks and pallets of products blocked the doors, the agency said.

“The employer’s shocking decision to seal exit doors and block emergency-exit routes to gain additional storage space placed the workers in great jeopardy,” said Galen Lemke, director of OSHA’s Honolulu area office, in a news release.

Lemke said the blocked exits could cause devastating results if ammonia were to leak from the piping throughout the facility. “Employers must follow safety and health rules to prevent horrific tragedies, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York in 1911, when 146 workers died, unable to escape due to blocked exits. We hope to never see such a tragedy again—in Hawaii or anywhere.”

Additional willful violations included the failure to keep exit routes free and unobstructed and the failure to label exit routes clearly.

Fifty-eight serious violations were related to hazards associated with process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals in the ammonia refrigeration system, missing stair railings, unguarded floor openings on stairway platforms, deficiencies in the company’s workplace emergency response plan, and inadequate electrical equipment.

Unicold Corp. was also cited for two other-than-serious violations related to portable fire extinguishers. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Hawaii’s workplace health and safety plan status has been temporarily suspended since 2012 while OSHA monitors the state’s performance. The suspension is to run through 2015.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

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