Untidy office lands fashion designer with huge fine

Think twice before letting your office get into too much of a mess - it could turn out rather expensive. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff is now facing a fine of $77,000 for having too much clutter in her offices and showroom.

According to the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the state of the 33 West 17th Street corporate office and showroom in New York represented a serious hazard to health and safety. It was overcrowded and congested, with boxes and other items blocking exits and passageways.

The OSHA investigated Minkoff's company, which makes handbags, accessories and women's fashion, following complaints from worried staff.

"Workers may have only seconds to escape in the event of a fire or other emergency," says Kay Gee, OSHA's area director in Manhattan. "It's critical to maintain swift, clear access to emergency exits, and it is a requirement under the law."

Under the US Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.

But the OSHA found that many of the sixth floor offices and the showroom space were piled high with boxes, rolling racks, workstations, chairs, equipment, storage and other materials. It was impossible to access the path to the emergency exits, and a workstation was installed directly in front of emergency exit doors. Workers were highly likely to trip and fall, found the OHSA, and would have difficulty escaping in an emergency.

"Management knew of the hazard of compromised emergency exit access, yet allowed the hazard to continue," says Gee. "Because of that, we are proposing the maximum fines allowable for the willful and serious violations."

Rebecca Minkoff first achieved success with her accessories, including the Morning After Bag, or MAB. She later branched out, launching her first ready-to-wear collection in 2009.
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