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Billerica auto auction firm faces $267,000 fine over crash that killed five

By Globe Staff 

The Billerica-based auto auction company where five people were killed and several others injured in May after an SUV veered into a crowd is facing a $267,081 fine by federal labor officials for several “serious” workplace violations uncovered during a six-month investigation of the incident.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday it has issued 16 citations against Lynnway Auto Auction for violations that included exposing employees to motor vehicle hazards, having blocked exit routes, and failing to maintain a workplace “hazard communication” program.

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OSHA also cited TrueBlue Inc., a staffing firm — doing business as PeopleReady — for assigning workers to Lynnway Auto Auction, thereby exposing them to potential hazards, including being crushed or struck by vehicles. The Dover, N.H.-based company faces a $12,675 fine.

Lynnway Auto president Jim Lamb said in a statement that since the May 3 incident, the company has “taken a number of measures to ensure a safe environment for our customers and employees. The majority of the OSHA citations Lynnway received, while unrelated to the accident site, have either been resolved or are in the process of being corrected.”

TrueBlue could not be reached for comment.

The bulk of the fines against Lynnway Auto, about $140,000, involved two repeat violations that the company had been cited for after an investigation in 2014. That investigation led to a $6,300 fine, which was later reduced to $2,200 after Lynnway Auto agreed to make safety improvements.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings.

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Lamb said the company has installed safety posts throughout the facility “to provide a barrier to a potential future vehicle malfunction.” He said it will continue to work with OSHA “to resolve any outstanding issues.”

In May, a 76-year-old employee with a suspended driver’s license was behind the wheel of a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee during an auction in the warehouse, when the vehicle accelerated without warning. It struck several bystanders, careered across the entire length of the building, and crashed through an exterior cinder block wall. Five people were killed.

Several state and federal agencies continue to investigate the incident.


Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com
Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.