Does Apple’s New HQ Violate OSHA?
By Elizabeth Torphy-Donzella - Shawe Rosenthal LLP
March 8, 2018
Apple has a new $5 billion headquarters building on its campus in Cupertino, California. It was constructed from the imagination of iconic founder, Steve Jobs, who envisioned the structure with its glass-encased interior and exterior rings as a true “temple of design” (according to the San Francisco Chronicle). In fact, architecture and interior design often are aspirational. We construct spaces to reflect not who we are, but who we would like to be, to elevate us from the clutter of our messy lives to a higher plateau. We seek feng shui – uplifting energy. Sometimes, however, concept clashes with real life (like when I realized my amazing new master bathroom with the walk in shower and granite counters had no place to hang hand towels; my interior designer thought that towel rings would interrupt the feng shui).
Apple has a slightly more significant problem with its new “spaceship campus” building. People – some of Apple’s 12,000 employees on campus, for whom it has a duty to provide a safe working environment, according to OSHA — are walking into the walls! Like hapless birds who fly into glass buildings, employees are smacking right into what they think are open space (no doubt distracted by their iPhones). A San Francisco Chronicle article “broke” the news, publishing the 911 calls that describe the immediate aftermath of dazed, bleeding and concussed employees. Another article also reveals that Apple was warned about the hazard by a building inspector who visited the nearly complete building in the months before occupancy.
California’s government knows how to deal with these issues, I think. After all, San Francisco has adopted extensive regulations to ensure “bird safe buildings.” I am sure that if Apple cannot figure out how to make its building people-safe (perhaps by interspersing people-shaped decals on the windows to warn their peeps that windows are not open space), a law can be passed to regulate the solution. Until then, Apple should take comfort in knowing that workers’ compensation law preempt tort claims (at least for employee casualties). And also in the fact that its glass walls apparently are far more break-resistant that the iPhone X!