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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [09/22/2011]
Contact Name: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone Number: (617) 565-2074
Release Number: 11-1315-NEW

US Labor Department's OSHA cites Brooklyn, NY, supermarket for locking in night shift employees, other violations; proposes more than $62,000 in fines

Workers unable to exit swiftly in event of emergency

NEW YORK — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Brooklyn supermarket for alleged willful and serious violations of workplace safety standards after an inspection found that night shift employees were locked in and not allowed to leave the building without the employer's permission. Mermaid Meat Co., doing business as Fine Fare Supermarkets at 2901 Mermaid Ave., faces a total of $62,300 in proposed fines.

"One hundred years ago in New York City, 146 workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Many of them died because they were locked in and unable to escape swiftly," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "A century later, we still find employers locking in their employees or otherwise obstructing emergency exit access. These are imminent danger situations, potential catastrophes in the making. Conditions from 1911 should not continue to exist in 2011."

"Our inspection found that all five exit doors were locked at night and could not be unlocked without a manager's permission. These workers were essentially caged and that is completely unacceptable," said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director based in Manhattan. "Employees must be able to exit the workplace swiftly in the event of a fire or other emergency. When they cannot do so, they face serious injury or death from burns and smoke inhalation."

OSHA standards require that employees be able to open an exit route door from inside at all times, without keys, tools or special knowledge. A device such as a panic bar that locks only from the outside is permitted on exit doors. OSHA cited the company for one willful violation with a fine of $49,000 for the locked exits. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Four serious violations with $13,300 in fines involve obstructed exit routes as well as electrical and tripping hazards. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"One means of preventing hazards such as these is for employers to establish an injury and illness prevention program in which they work with their employees to identify and eliminate hazardous conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

An OSHA fact sheet detailing emergency exit route information is available online at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/emergency-exit-routes-factsheet.pdf.

Mermaid Meat. Co. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Manhattan Area Office; telephone 212-620-3200. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.