In what’s been compared to a scene from an early 1900’s sweat shop, a Fine Fare supermarket (2901 Mermaid Avenue) in Coney Island has been cited by the United States Department of Labor for endangering workers lives by padlocking its fire exits overnight.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, Mermaid Meat Co. – which owns and operates the grocery store – could potentially be fined $62,000 for the violation.
In the event of a fire, the night shift employees would not have been able to escape by pushing the panic bars on doors, nor were they provided with keys to the exits, as required by law.
“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.”
The citations include $49,000 for the locked doors, as well as $13,300 for obstructed exit routes, electrical and tripping hazards.
Mermaid Meat Co. has 15 business days to either comply with safety regulations or contest inspectors’ findings before OSHA’s Review Commission.
When Bensonhurst Bean tried to contact the supermarket’s owners for comment, a phone number listed as belonging to Mermaid Meat had apparently been disconnected.
No criminal charges have been filed against the location’s directors.