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Teen retailer Forever 21 slapped with safety fines


All the clutter from piles of cheap polyester dresses and acrylic sweaters is taking a toll on fast-fashion retailer Forever 21: The Los Angeles-based chain was fined $236,500 for unsafe work conditions at stores in Times Square and Paramus, N.J., according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In the 90,000-square-foot Times Square outpost, which opened four years ago, inspectors found obstructed exits and uncovered fluorescent lights — both repeat violations from a 2012 citation. The store was also fined because it was not clean and orderly, leading to safety concerns.

"It is unacceptable for Forever 21 to continue repeating these violations, which are common among retailers, and put workers at serious risk," said Robert Kulick, New York regional administrator for OSHA, in a statement. "Retail managers have a legal responsibility to inspect their stores, identify potential hazards and quickly eliminate them to ensure worker safety and health."

Similar to the Manhattan shop, Forever 21's Paramus store was fined for repeat violations such as obstructed exits, an inaccessible fire extinguisher and improper storage methods. The 30-year-old retailer's outpost was also inspected in 2012.

Last year, Forever 21 reportedly generated an estimated $3.7 billion in sales.

A representative from Forever 21 did not immediately return calls requesting comment. The company, which is in the process of launching a higher-end shoe collection, has 15 business days to contest OSHA's findings.

Retail safety has been an issue in the industry of late, following recent fires and building collapses at manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh and Cambodia. Chains such as Gap and Macy's are dedicating additional revenue for increased training and inspections at factories overseas.

Adrianne Pasquarelli writes for Crain's New York Business, a sister publication of Business Insurance.