OSHA Cites Mermaid Meat Co. for Locking Workers Inside During Their Shifts

OSHA has proposed $62,300 in fines against Mermaid Meat Co. for allegedly maintaining hazardous conditions similar to those that led to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire tragedy in 1911 – locking the exit doors so employees could not freely leave during work shifts.

Following an inspection, OSHA alleged that Mermaid Meat Co.’s Fine Fare Supermarkets, located in Brooklyn, N.Y., locked all five of the supermarket’s exit doors at night. These doors could only be unlocked with a manager’s permission, which meant night shift workers could be trapped in the event of a fire or other emergency, the agency claims.

“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.”

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. The agency cited Mermaid Meat Co. for one willful violation with a fine of $49,000 for the locked exits. The agency also issued four serious violations with fines totaling $13,300 for obstructed exit routes as well as electrical and tripping hazards.

An employee at Mermaid Meat Co. told EHS Today that the company has no comment on OSHA’s findings or citations. Mermaid 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.

For more information on emergency exit route information, download OSHA’s Fact Sheet.

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