Taipei city councilors yesterday called for a reassessment of public safety inspection regulations after a pregnant woman fell down the cluttered staircase of a a well-known drugstore chain.
On Dec. 28, a pregnant woman surnamed Lin was shopping at a Watsons branch on Xiyuan Road. She was making her way down the stairs trying to avoid the product displays stacked along the staircase when she lost her footing and fell.
She was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital but could not have an X-ray because of the pregnancy so it was not immediately known whether the fall had affected the baby.
Lin said that she was not satisfied with the company's attitude and that since the accident only the Xiyuan Road store had removed products from stairways while all other Watsons continued to display goods in this dangerous fashion.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councilors Lee Chian-chang (李建昌) and Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said yesterday that Watsons has always displayed products on stairwells and even on sidewalks, often obstructing passageways.
Lee said that there was supposedly a "shelving fee" for all products, but many products end up in piles on the ground and not on the shelves.
The city councilors said they had tried to contact Watsons for a response but had received no reply.
A section chief from the Department of Building Administration surnamed Chiu said there are currently loopholes in the regulations because Ministry of the Interior regulations stipulate that the department can only make periodical inspections of stores or hypermarts over 500 m2 in area.
However, for stores measuring under 500m2, such as the 400m2 Watsons store, the department does not have the right to carry out public safety inspections, Chiu said.
Chiu said that customers who are hurt can seek the help of the Business Administration Office or the Consumer Protection Center of Taipei.
Chiu added that the Business Administration Office had the authority to check whether a store is illegally using unregistered space. Once discovered to be illegal, the department can then intervene and fine the offending store, he said.
The councilors said that the 500m2 limit was flawed, which allowed stores like Watsons to violate regulations and that the requirements needed to be reassessed.
As of press time, Watsons headquarters was unavailable for comment.