A Brooklyn supermarket locked its workers inside at night and none of its five exits could be opened without a manager's permission, creating an "imminent danger situation," federal inspectors charged Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Mermaid Meat Co., operating as Fine Fare Supermarket, with $62,300 in potential fines.
OSHA rules require that employees be able to open an exit from inside at all times, without keys. The company was fined $49,000 for the locked exits, and racked up another four violations with $13,300 in fines for obstructed exit routes and other hazards.
Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said the violations at Fine Fare on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island evoked "conditions from 1911."
That year, 146 garment workers died in the famed Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, many of whom could not escape because of locked exits and stairwells.
"A century later, we still find employers locking in their employees or otherwise obstructing emergency exit access," Michaels said. "These are imminent danger situations, potential catastrophes in the making."
Mermaid Meat Co. has 15 days to comply with OSHA.
A lawyer for the store said OSHA is mistaken and that there were open exits.