CAMDEN – A workplace-safety regulator has proposed fines of $1.2 million for an EMR subsidiary here, saying the scrap business did not protect its employees and “willfully failed” to prevent repeated fires.
An inspection found 33 alleged workplace safety and health violations at My Auto Store, a vehicle-dismantling business in Camden, said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
It said the violations included “willful, repeat and serious citations.”
Among other allegations, OSHA said My Auto Store “willfully failed to prevent fires, which happened frequently along the conveyor line when sparking tools ignited gasoline vapors.”
It also claimed the business failed to provide workers with fire-extinguisher training and personal protective equipment, and that it did not keep an emergency exit clear.
My Auto Store plans to “vigorously contest” OSHA’s proposed penalties “and looks forward to the opportunity to present our side of the story during the appeals process,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.
“Employee safety is always the top priority at My Auto Store,” it said.
“We disagree with multiple findings in the citation, most of which were previously corrected with OSHA advised of same,” it added.
The statement also disputed “OSHA’s characterization of alleged ‘fires’ at (My Auto Store) and will be addressing (that) more fully during the appeals process.”
EMR facilities at a sprawling compex in South Camden have been the scene of two major fires in the past year, including one that sent black smoke billowing over the city on Feb. 28.
A Jan. 24 fire at another EMR facility, this time in Newark, sent smoke and odor into neighborhoods in Essex County and even prompted warnings as far away as Manhattan and the Bronx, 20 miles away.
The large fires in Camden involved outdoor processing of scrap metal and were not related to operations at My Auto Store, EMR noted in a statement.
Last month’s fire broke out at an EMR site at 6th and Atlantic streets.
A January 2021 fire that prompted the evacuation of homes and schools in the Waterfront South neighborhood occurred at an EMR facility on the 1200 block of Front Street.
My Auto Store operates on the 1400 block of Ferry Avenue, where a “state-of-the-art automotive disassembly plant” can process more than 7,000 vehicles per month, according to the company’s website.
OSHA began an inspection of My Auto Store in September 2021 after a worker’s hand was crushed by a vehicle lift. It alleged the firm lacked proper safeguards to protect workers from accident machine start-ups.
“By disregarding required safety protections, My Auto Store contributed to a worker’s serious and life-altering injury,” Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s regional director in New York, said in a statement Wednesday.
My Auto Store also allegedly failed to protect workers from being caught in automobile lifts and from being hit by the moving conveyor belt, the statement alleged.
If it does not accept the agency’s findings, My Auto Store can contest the citations and penalties before an independent commission or request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director.
The EMR complex was developed in 2015 with an initial award of state tax incentives worth $252.7 million.
The state Economic Development Authority earlier this year said it reduced those tax breaks to $131.6 million. The EDA acted after implementing measures to better track the number of jobs created by incentive recipients.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: OSHA proposes $1.2M fine for EMR My Auto Store in Camden