San Diego Ca
October 20, 2008
Mr. Frank Blake, CEO
The Home Depot
2455 Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30080
Dear Mr. Blake:
The reason for this letter reaching your desk is because it has taken me over seven years’ time to realize that I could not solve the following safety problems from the bottom up, thus this has reached your level of corporate responsibility.
This letter and photographs enclosed on CD are intended to notify The Home Depot of my concerns, frustration, and lack of remedy at the way The Home Depot has allowed dangerous safety lapses related to blocked emergency egress locations at your stores in the San Diego area and how it has affected me.
As a longtime customer of The Home Depot Stores, I have become distressed, sickened, and discriminated against by the ongoing conditions of the stores and by the lack of training and discipline that The Home Depot employees (associates, management, loss control and safety officials) who have allowed dangerous and unsafe conditions to exist. These ongoing safety violations do not provide a safe environment and workplace for customers and employees alike. They not only put customers and employees in harms way, but also limit first responders in an emergency situation from gaining entry to your facilities.
The enclosed photographs document an ongoing lack of compliance with State and Federal Laws (OSHA, Cal OSHA, ADA, and other regulatory requirements). I have photographed many of these obstructed exits for several years. It started back in 1994 when I had a business in San Marcos and noticed the Oceanside store lacked safety controls for egress. I live in Alpine and also saw similar problems at the El Cajon facility. After the tragedy of 9-11, I started taking photographs of these emergency egress violations. It is very upsetting to me to see a blocked emergency exit. It puts into question why there is an inability on The Home Depot’s part to provide safe emergency egress from several stores in the San Diego area. I have personally spoken to store associates and management over time and have asked for the exits to be cleared. I have asked management to walk the store and requested the removal of padlocks, fences, and numerous other types of products that find their way into these egress areas (pallets, straps, forklifts, rolling carts, vehicles, sand and gravel, rebar, and debris). Again, none of these are acceptable or in compliance with the laws governing egress. I have been ineffective at getting these situations corrected and maintained. A problem is corrected only to find the problem to reappear shorty thereafter. I have personally been affected by the lack of safety on the part of The Home Depot Stores. My numerous interactions with associates and managers have left me frustrated and humiliated by laughing associates. They continually questioned me as to who I am (I am a customer of Home Depot!!), and on many occasions I have been asked why I care. I suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, and these unsafe conditions exacerbate this problem. On one occasion, a store manager said that he did not have the time to look at the blocked emergency exits that I was concerned about. I was again asked why I care. I do not need to explain to store associates why these unsafe conditions concern me so greatly. I cannot help but think of the terrible tragedy that could unfold in an earthquake, fire, or act of violence in your stores which could lead to a stampede and the devastating effects of not having law-abiding egress. Not only do I care for my own well-being, but that of others. It also deeply troubles me for the store to make a representation of a safe, unobstructed fire exit on the interior side, only to look on the exterior side to have the exit obstructed or blocked.
On or about September 11, 2008, I requested the name of a safety person from the manager of the Sports Arena store. I told him about my concerns. He gave me the name of Mr. Richard Timms whom I made contact with and forwarded over 30 pictures on two occasions showing the problems. Mr. Timms said he would forward the photos up the chain of command and I would be contacted if need be. I was not contacted by anyone other than Mr. Timms who had assured me at a later date that he had walked the stores and that all exits were open and safe. On the day that the store manager gave me Mr. Timms’ e-mail address, I asked the manager to clear an exit that was blocked. We went to the exit where there was a cloth strap holding a chain link door over the emergency exit doors. I told the manager that this situation had been going on for a long time and I did not understand why this condition was allowed and tolerated. He told me that it was a simple fix and he cut the strap. To date, this exit is still blocked by the fences and other obstructions. At that time, I recommended to him that the site fence gate be fixed and not allowed to swing in front of the safety doors. He had no comment. I also told him about the six foot stockade fence that was erected for a barbecue area for associates’ use that was totally unacceptable, being that this exit was the main emergency exit for the back of the store. At that time, he made the comment that the fence was only held together with zip ties and that the fence could be easily knocked over in an emergency. It saddens me to see this ineffective safety program. I had previously requested the fence over the exit to be taken down by another store manager. The fence was disassembled, and the exit was reestablished. Approximately two months later, the fence reappeared over the exit for the associates’ use, once again denying egress. I became upset and demanded that the store manager remove the fence on this second occasion immediately, and told him that if he refused I would go back and remove the fence myself. The manager complied and removed the fence.
On September 22, 2008, after shopping at The Home Depot and purchasing products at the Sports Arena store, I took three photos of obstructed emergency exits. I was accused of misrepresenting myself as one of your corporate officials by the Sports Arena store manager at that time - the one who gave me Mr. Timms’ name. He said that one of his associates said that I had taken a picture of him on a ladder and said that I was from corporate. (Are all associates afraid of corporate?) This is a false accusation, and I told him that I wanted to speak with the person making that accusation but was refused. At that time, (in the parking lot) I was told never to return to the store again and that there was signage in the store stating that there was no audio-visual allowed on the site. The store manager stated that he had the discretion to ban me from the store.
I hope that the Sports Arena store manager did not ban me out of retribution for any feedback he received from Mr. Timms. Again, I am forwarding numerous photos for your review. I have additional photographs dating back to 2002. I would like to meet with someone from corporate to help remedy these problems and to satisfy my concerns. The Home Depot should have new door signage both interior and exterior on all emergency doors stating “Emergency Exit - Do Not Block.” Your audio speaker system in the stores should also state the need for safety at all times and to keep emergency egress exits in compliance. The Home Depot should have development and implementation of an effective, law-abiding safety program that addresses these concerns from the top down. Safety should be everyone’s concern from the top down and bottom up. Lack of an effective safety program by corporate leadership promotes poor disciplines and creates a dangerous environment for all customers and associates in the workplace. In my dealings with store associates, managers, and loss prevention and safety personnel, I have noticed a general lack of training and understanding pertaining to safety as per exits. Local fire agencies conduct annual inspections at your facilities. This is not intended to be the only governing safety protocol because as soon as they are gone, the same problems reappear once again. This clearly shows an inadequate and ineffective safety program.
I am requesting to discuss compensation for the discrimination, banishment, mental stress, humiliation, and anxiety that has affected my posttraumatic stress conditions. Please do “the right thing” as stated under your Business Code of Conduct and Ethics.
Your Business Code of Conduct and Ethics reads:
“The Home Depot has a strong commitment to ethics and integrity, and our core values define the means by which we do business. ‘Doing the right thing’ each and every day for the benefit of our Associates, customers, vendors, and suppliers and the communities we serve is critical to our ongoing success.”
Each day we are challenged to be fair and consistent, to be compliant with the laws that govern our activities, and to notify others when something needs to be corrected.” …etc.
Your Safety profile reads:
“The Home Depot is committed to providing safe environments in which to work and shop. All locations must be in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other regulatory requirements. Safety issues and violations of regulatory requirements will be addressed promptly. In addition to meeting our obligations, the Company will take proactive initiatives to make safety a top priority. The Company will establish and maintain programs that will manage safety concerns in all of our facilities. We will never ask or expect an Associate to perform any task or operate any machinery that is considered unsafe. Associates are charged with the responsibility for maintaining safe practices and conditions in everything they do.”
This last sentence states that The Home Depot charges their associates of maintaining safe practices and conditions in everything they do. For the above conditions to happen, associates need strong leadership and governance from The Home Depot corporate officials to foster this statement. I patiently await your response. Thank you for your attention.
xxxxx - a longtime customer of The Home Depot
Enclosure: CD with photographs
cc: Mr. Joe McFarland - Western Division
Board of Directorspe Content Here