Furniture Maker Faces Big Safety Fines

Monday, February 2, 2015 @ 05:02 PM gHale

Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. is facing $1.766 million in fines for 12 willful, 12 repeated and 14 serious safety violations at its Arcadia, WI, location, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In a three-and-a-half year period, 4,500 employees at Ashley Furniture in Arcadia experienced more than 1,000 work-related injuries. One worker became another terrible statistic when he lost three fingers in July while operating a dangerous woodworking machine without required safety mechanisms in place. Of the injuries recorded, more than 100 were the result of similar machinery.

RELATED STORIES
Worker’s Fall into Acid Brings Fines
Safety Fines for TX Plastics Maker
Combustible Dust Hazard at Flour Mill
Steel Maker Cited for Worker Death

The company is now in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program for failure to address these safety hazards. OSHA previously cited the Arcadia facility in 2014 after an employee suffered a partial finger amputation.

“Ashley Furniture has created a culture that values production and profit over worker safety, and employees are paying the price,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Safety and profits are not an ‘either, or’ proposition. Successful companies across this nation have both.”

“Ashley Furniture intentionally and willfully disregarded OSHA standards and its own corporate safety manuals to encourage workers to increase productivity and meet deadlines,” said Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor of occupational safety and health. “The company apparently blamed the victims for their own injuries, but there is clear evidence that injuries were caused by the unsafe conditions created by the company. OSHA is committed to making sure that the total disregard Ashley Furniture has shown to safety stops here and now.”

Forbes lists Ashley Furniture Industries, a furniture manufacturer with worldwide distribution, as the 117th largest private company in America. With annual revenue of $3.85 billion as of October 2014, the company employs 20,000 workers at 30 locations nationally. The Arcadia plant is also the largest employer in Wisconsin’s rural Trempealeau County, with a population of about 30,000.

The company received 12 willful and 12 repeated violations after OSHA found the company did not take the necessary steps to protect its workers from injuries by moving machine parts. It did not prevent machines from unintentionally starting when workers were performing tooling and blade changes on woodworking machinery, and also failed to provide adequate safety mechanisms to prevent contact with those moving parts. These types of violations are among the most frequently cited by OSHA and often result in death or permanent disability.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer previously received citations for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

OSHA also cited Ashley Furniture Industries for 14 serious violations, including not training workers on safety procedures and hazards present when servicing machinery. The company also lacked adequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive materials; it committed three electrical safety violations, and it did not equip some of its machines with readily-accessible emergency stop buttons.

An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.